Inner-toddlers, an expert, and my three brains

toddler tantrumsI know An Expert. He is an expert in brains and thoughts and sleepless nights. Given I have been having the most unhelpful thoughts that sometimes prevent me from sleeping, I gave him a call.

“Abby, do you know you have three brains?” I did not know this. But, given this blog post, I am not overly surprised.

He continues:

“You have a brain you think of as ‘you’ – your decision maker.”

I am pretty sure it is this decision-making brain that is talking to you as I write this post.

“Then you have  a thought generating brain, spewing out thoughts that can be nonsense, banal or now and again blog worthy. Why do you think those thoughts pop into your head at odd times?” he asks.

“I’ve no idea”

“Neither do I”.


“You also have a more infantile brain. It is your inner-child.”

“Are you smoking something hippyish?”

“No. I’m being An Expert. Listen. You have an inner child. Call it ‘F’.”


“Because all it really thinks about is the big “F’s: the fleeing; the fighting; the feeding; and the fucking.”

“Are you sure inner children should be thinking about the fucking?

“You are being obtuse. The point I am trying to make is that the F brain thinks about all of these basic instincts in a particularly childlike way. It decides whether or not it wants to run away or fight or binge or fast or, well, fuck, in any given situation. Woe betide anything that tries to stop it acting on its impulses.”

And there’s the rub. Because me, decision maker me, the brain talking to you right now, cannot always run away from a situation. or hit someone in the face. or binge or, well, have a quick shag to relieve the tension, no matter what the ‘inner-child’ is begging me to do.

“So what then?”, I ask, “What if me and my three brains are unable to escape the situations that upset this inner-child?”

“If decisions you make upset your inner-child, then it might have a tantrum. Like with any toddler tantrum, the physical symptoms are self-evident: raised heart beat, flushed cheeks, sometimes seeing red, sometimes wanting to weep, sometimes mute, sometimes irrational. When under stress, your thought generator will become muddled and ‘you’, won’t be able to hear yourself think. Let alone be able to sleep.

“Can I get chocolates and sweets fast tracked to this third brain? Chocolate and sweets always help in a tantrum situation.”

The expert exudes an annoyed silence. Then asks:

“How sweet are you to your inner child?”

“If I spoke to my children like I speak to myself about the things I have failed to do or ballsed up or that worry me, then they would be in care.”

“So speak nicer”

“You are seriously saying I should tell myself how great I am?”

“I’m just telling you to speak to yourself like you would speak to your children. Celebrate success. Be supportive in failure. Don’t judge harshly and by ridiculous standards. Be kind.”

He may be a sometimes unhelpful, stoned-sounding, inappropriate hippy. But he may have a point.

It’s perhaps time to serve up a more thoughtful plate of thought food, and feed it gently to the baby-brain. I’ll serve up huge portions of love, and hugs, and praise and support.

“Won’t this just make my inner child, and therefore me, a smug, spoiled, pain in the arse?”

“I don’ think so. And remember, I am An Expert. At the very least, you’ll have done your utmost to care for it. To care for you. Once you’ve managed that, who knows, those unhelpful thoughts may find it a little harder to make themselves heard in the middle of the night.”

“Perhaps all three of us will sleep a little easier!”

“Like babies even?”

“Two hours at a time, to awake starving hungry and covered in shit?”

“Kind thoughts Abby. Kind thoughts”.

This could be tough, don’t you think?

I (and I and I) will let you know how it goes……




The Godless Godmother

The GodmotherThe first time it became apparent to me that even ‘nothing’ is ‘something’ was when I saw my first dead body.

My Nana lay there, looking like a Madame Tussaud’s version of herself. What struck me was not her absence, but the very tangible presence of her death: I could feel it.

The weight of her loss was so enormous, it felt like it had its own gravitational pull. Perhaps it didn’t. Perhaps it was the psychological loss I felt. But it seemed more than that.

Today, while attending a christening. I couldn’t help think of Nana’s funeral. The same hymn was sung at both. Each time, I sang with all my heart.

For both occasions, funeral and christening, I had the best seat in the house. As her only Granddaughter, I sat right at the front of the service when saying farewell to Nana. And today, as a Godmother, I took a similar vantage point.

If you read this blog you will have gleaned that while I am supportive, and even jealous of others’ religion, I just can’t find God. Despite looking for him now and then, I remain an atheist.  The decision to be Godmother was therefore one I struggled with.

I explained to the parents, who regularly attend church, that I am not religious. After some open discussions, and with their blessing, I quickly felt thrilled and comfortable with taking on the  role.

When I was feeling particularly doubtful of my ability to fulfil my duties, a cynical voice inside my head tried to make itself heard: if God really is nothing to me, there really is nothing to worry about.

What I failed to realise is how that ‘nothing’ is very much a ‘something’.

It’s not that I don’t believe in God, it’s that I do believe there is no God. I guess that is part of the faith that guides me.

Today in the service, the words I needed to utter stuck momentarily in my throat. I had not realised how strong my faith is.

In retrospect though, I don’t regret taking on the role of the Godless Godmother. I feel so honoured and privileged to have this little person in a special place in my life. I plan to take my duties seriously.

But still, was what I did ‘good’ or ‘right’?

Is it that black and white?

Or am I, at the end of a lovely, fulfilling and spiritual day, just making something out of nothing?








Cogitating with the Kids: Where Do Babies Come From?

where do babies come from?

The four year old: I know where babies come from.

Me: Oooh. Do you want to tell me?

They come from a big white house.

[Perplexed] Er. Oh. Ok. [Then clarity] Oh! I see. You mean the hospital?

No. I don’t mean the hospital. I mean a very very tall, skinny white house.

[More perplexed]  Erm. Ok. [But going with it]. And how do the babies go in and out of the big white house?

They come out of a machine.

[Silence, while we both ponder this.]

I think all humans came out of a machine mummy.

Erm. Sweetheart, do you remember that book about where babies come from? Can you remember a machine in that?

No, Mummy. But I think I came out of a machine.

[Silence, while I wonder where I put that book]



If all the humans came out of a machine, who opened the door?

[big silence while we both ponder 'the door', metaphorical or otherwise, whether life is just one long production line, whether or not humans are sometimes trapped forever behind the door and, if so, who decides who comes and goes, and how did the door ever got opened. I say 'both pondered' - perhaps it was just me. I'm pretty sure the 4 year old had moved onto watching raindrops race down the passenger seat window].

The four year old: Mummy? Well? Who opened it?

Me: Let’s go and find that book.



From Two Mums in a Cafe: Thank You Scotland

Thank you ScotlandI met one of my Mummy friends yesterday for our first child-free coffee-in-a-cafe* for 6 years.

We chatted about schools and Scotland and ourselves (imagine that!) and, obviously, the kids.

One of her little boys is going through a tricky phase. He is constantly pushing the boundaries, trying to break away by, literally, running away from the family. Continue reading

Let Them Eat Free School Meals: Why Parents’ Frustrations Are Not All About The Cake

let them eat cake When Marie Antoinette pronounced, “Let them eat cake”, she must have been utterly perplexed at the bad feeling it caused.

People were poor, some were struggling to feed themselves. So she offered to help. She offered them cake for God’s sake – what’s to moan about?

I wonder if Nick Clegg would also feel perplexed, were he to log on to the comments made by Mumsnetters in response to a recent Mumsnet guest post about free school meals. Continue reading

How to Manage Conflict: Tips for Gardeners, Parents and World Leaders Alike

Reluctant gardeners for world peace

Our garden is nestled behind our cottage that sits on an unfashionable suburban road. I bought the house over a decade ago now, when conflicts abroad had come too close to home and weighed heavily on our hearts and minds.

Tube journeys no longer felt exciting, but fraught with danger. The babble of many different languages from lips I could not see was no longer cosmopolitan but unsettling. I hated myself for feeling like that.

To regain my previous more positive outlook on life, I retreated from the capital to somewhere that felt more like home. Somewhere where we could afford to raise a family and to have a garden for them to play in safely. Continue reading

From a long hot summer to very cold feet

Over the long summer break, routine went out of the window to be replaced with camping trips, PJ days and too many ice creams.

Before he broke up from school, the eldest was asked by his teacher to keep a scrap-book. It was presented as a way to create a keep sake of our holidays together. It was a cover to encourage him to continue to write every now and then.

Writing is such a new skill for him. He needs to keep up the practice or, to return to it cold, will be a big shock to his system.

He did it, begrudgingly. He loves scrap books, drawing, and is also enthralled by the glimpse of the new world that reading and writing are opening up for him. However, the scrap-book reminded him of school. He needed some time off. We all did.

In my wisdom, I thought a break from blogging would do me good too. Indeed a break from the mechanics of blogging, and the infinite perusal of the blogs of others, has been welcome.

I did, however, have this nagging awareness that I ought to keep writing here and there. I have made a few half-hearted attempts, but nothing much has been committed to either paper or screen.

My eldest did, under my gentle nudging, keep up the writing habit. I did not.

And here we are, one day left until a new term starts. The eldest seems prepared for his return. I, on the other had, am back to square one.

So here is me, dipping a very cold toe back into blogging waters.


If I get moving, things should warm up again soon. Right?