I know, most people have read this one already. And you know me and my girls… They are my life.  But they also remind me of The Little Girl In The Blue House… Is there someone missing her? Someone talking to her each day? Is she waiting for someone? Is she okay?

 ________________________

2008_0944

The Little Girl In The Blue House

I always walk the same way to the train station. I take the shortest route. I have too. Way too early to walk one meter further than I have to. Or one minute longer than what is needed. There is another route. Slightly longer. But all the time in the world if it is so bloody early in the morning. My normal route is an easy walk. Turn right, then a quick left and straight down to the station. A quick and easy 20 minute stroll.  And who said I don’t get enough exercise… But today I had to go the slightly longer route. Turn left, turn right and down the slightly longer walk to the station. Not by much. Just about 5 minutes added. But sometimes the longer route brings more than just a longer walk. And this morning I got more than I wanted. Another reason why I never like walking that route. A reminder. A memory.

My oldest daughter always does the “left turn” walk. Her friend from across the street walks with her to the bus stop. They pick up another friend along the way and off they go. But not this morning. The girl from across the road didn’t feel too well so she couldn’t walk with my daughter. Dad duties called. I am the backup. So off we went. On our left turn. 

We were joking as we walked. Doing our “home boy” walk down the street. Me doing funny walks and funny voices to show her how I was going to embarrass her in front of her friend who has never met me. Doing my typical dad stuff. We got to the house. I gave her a hug and a kiss and watched her walk to meet her friend. And off I went. Taking my right turn down the road. The slightly longer road.

I put my iPod on and was listening to A Fine Frenzy when I walked past the blue house. And it brought back memories of the little girl who lived there. The little girl in the blue house.

She was the first friend my oldest daughter made at her new school when we moved here. They were in the same class. Hung out together. I saw her often. At the school. Or at the park. Or just in the streets when we were walking. But she was always there when we took my daughter to school. Running to great her friend. She was scrawny just like my daughter. But she was a little bit too thin. A little bit too pale.

In summer she always had just a t-shirt on. And in winter. A very worn and tatty thin little jacket. And trust me. It gets damn cold over here in Boston in winter. I remember seeing her with her arms folded to try and keep some heat in that little body of hers. You could see she was cold. But that was all she had for winter.

Her mother was always well dresses. With the latest fashion. Clothes and accessories she bought at the mall. She looked well looked after. And warm. Not like her little girl. But we didn’t see her at school often. Or anywhere for that matter. She didn’t walk with her little girl that often.

And they stayed just down the road from the school. It looked like a pretty house from the outside. That blue house where the girl stayed.

I often took my girls to the park at the school. And we’ll see her there often. On her own. On the swings. And she’ll be so happy to see my daughters. She was always so good to my little one. Running up to her and giving her a hug and a kiss and playing with her. She was a nice little girl. That little girl from the blue house.

My daughter always told us about her friend. And how she shared her snacks at school with her because she never had snacks. So my wife put in a few extra snacks for two. Never mentioned it to the little girl. Didn’t want her to feel odd. My daughter just shared because that is how she is. It was her friend. No questions.

And one day she told us that the girl was so exited about going to visit her dad in Arkansas. Her parents were divorced. And she lived with her mother and boyfriend in the blue house. The boyfriend had a nice BMW convertible. Nice car. Pretty new. They obviously had some money. Just not always for the little girl. But she was excited. She was going to visit her dad.

And then we saw her during the holiday. When she was meant to be at her dad. It was the first time I really saw her sad. The smile wasn’t there. She spoke to my daughter in a low sad voice and I didn’t want to ask too many questions. Didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable. I just wanted her to be a little girl. Playing with her friend. And having fun the way 10-year old girls are meant to have fun. So I let them talk and watched as they started playing and giggling. And the smile started coming back. She was with her friend.

The odd thing was that apart from that day I always saw her smile. A big old child smile. I never heard her complain. Not in front of me in any case. She always looked happy. But you could see that there was something missing. You just had to look carefully.

I always hug and kiss my girls. No matter where we are. When we drop them off at school. When I say goodbye in the morning. When they go to sleep at night. Or just because we feel like a hug and a kiss. Which is often. No matter where we are. And this little girl saw this. Saw how I hugged my girls. And she wanted one too.

I used to see her looking at me and my daughter when we hug. And then one day she came up to me when I took my girl to her school and asked for a hug. She was a little bit shy about asking. But I just gave my girl a hug and she looked at me with her tatty top with the long sleeves and peeked at me. “Can I get a hug please?” “Of course!” I said. I gave her a big old hug. And she hugged back. Hugging maybe a little longer and harder than what I expected. Almost as if she didn’t get a lot of hugs and would like to get hugs more often. She was only ten.

And that was how it was. Whenever she saw me she would come running up to me and give me a hug. And I’ll hug her back. And I’ll give her a smile and ask how she was doing. It became a standard thing. I never really thought much about it. I knew she wanted a hug and I gave her one. We can do with more hugs in this world. And I didn’t think that she got too many hugs elsewhere in any case.

And then one day she was just gone. Just gone. Her mother packed their bags in the middle of the night and just disappeared. Gone. Not even a goodbye. Not even a last hug. Just gone with her tatty little top. We never knew what happened to her. How she is doing or how she is feeling. Is she with her dad? Is she okay? Is she happy? Is she being a kid? Did she get a warmer jacket? Is she still smiling those big old smiles of hers? Is she getting any hugs? Or is she still playing alone in the park?

Time passed and memories started fading. We’ll mention her every now and again and just wonder.

And then we started looking at buying a house. And one of the houses that was on the market was the blue house. The blue house where the little girl stayed. So off we went to look at the house. Thinking that maybe we can buy it and make it our little house. Until we opened the front door and walked in.

My wife and myself just looked at each other when we walked in. I knew what she was thinking. It was my thoughts to.

The house stank. It was dirty. So dirty. Everything was a mess. Stuff lying on the floor everywhere. Clothes. Plates. Old food. Ashtrays overflowing. Wet spots. I have never, ever seen anything like this anywhere. And I have been to some places… It has been like this for a long, long time. Our shoes got stuck on the sticky dirt that was on the floors. All the rooms were in a mess. You couldn’t even see what color the walls or carpets were. It was brown. From dirt and cigarette smoke. I felt nauseous. Sick. The ex-boyfriend was lying in bed downstairs watching something on a big screen television. On his huge water bed. With plates and empty bottles and cigarettes lying all around him. A pig in a pigsty.

We went up the stairs to look at the real bedrooms. And we walked into the room that would have been that little girls room. It was a mess. Just a mess. No place for a little girl. Any little girl. Dirty. Filthy. Disgusting. You could see little things she must have tried to do to make it a little girl’s room. A little picture here and there. A ripped out poster. A wonky little table where she must have tried to study. Some girlie jewelery lying on the floor amongst the dirt that she must have forgotten to pack in the haste. But it was covered in a floor that ran skew. Holes in the floors and roof. And cold. And this was in winter. No heating. This was the room of the little girl with the big smile.

My wife and myself just looked at each other. We knew what each of us were thinking. We just wanted to get out. Just wanted to forget that we ever came. That we ever knew that little girl. And that she lived there. Her little room in the blue house.

We sat in the car and just stared at nothing for a while. And then she said it. “She lived in that house.” That’s all that needed to be said. We knew. The little girl in the blue house.

And walking past that house this morning reminded me of her. That little girl in the blue house. Made me think. Again. How did she do it? How did she manage? How did she remain a little girl in that house? How long can she be that girl with the big old kid smile? How long before she falls through the cracks? Is she strong enough? Where will she find the love she needs? The hugs she deserves? How is the little girl from the blue house doing?

The little girl from the blue house. I hope you remember me. I hope you remember those hugs. I just wish I hugged you a little harder and a little longer.

Advertisements
Will you take the flower please?

Will you take the flower please?

I am still haunted by this picture I have stuck in my head. The picture of the bully. The bully at my oldest angel’s school.

It happened a few years ago when my oldest daughter was graduating from her school. Well, graduating is pushing it a bit. She was just moving up to middle school. But we were proud parents. And we were there for her special day.

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and the birds were out to sing us a few songs. Us parents huddled around waiting for our kids. Chatting away about this and about that. Taking up our seats on our nice comfortable chairs waiting for our our kids to graduate. And someone mentioned the bully.

She was also going to graduate today. She was in my daughter’s class. The discussion? We hoped that she won’t be in the same school as our angels next year. This year was tough enough. We really didn’t want our kids facing her again next year. The pushing on the playground and the shoving in the corridors. Enough was enough. And we all hoped the bully will land up somewhere else. Far away from our kids. Somewhere where she can cause trouble on her own and not cause any more crying at home.

This girl was really a bully. A big girl who bullied everyone at school. When they played she always took the ball away from the other kids. And then pushed them. Or just ran into them for no reason. Or shouting and screaming at them. You name it and she did it. The ways bullies do it. It was a bloody nightmare. She was always frowning and being nasty. Just one horrid girl that needed one good bloody hiding if you asked me.

We were still talking about the bully when the kids and teachers came out. There’s our angel! Big wave and even bigger smile and huge kiss blown her direction! Good! She saw me! Mission accomplished! Actually, I was only just warming up with silly things to do…

And then it was time for the end of school ceremony.

We all sat down and listened to the headmistress talking about the kids and what a great year they had. Just the usual blah-blah but special to us and for our kids. This was their big moment. And we hung onto every single word she had to say. We took photos and waved even when told not to wave. Our angel was a bit embarrassed (as she always is with me around!) but she waved back. And she had this huge grin on her face. We might embarrass her every now and again but she loved it. Just loved it. We could see it in her huge big smile. She’ll roll her eyes and whisper something to her friend pointing at me – her crazy dad. And the kid will look at me and laugh. I knew my girl loved her crazy dad and mom. Because they were there waving and whistling and smiling and taking millions of photos of every single moment – when she sang and when she got her piece of paper and when she walked up and when she shook the teacher’s hand and when she breathed… Clickety click-click. We never missed a moment and made sure we had the memories captured for her kids to see one day. The day she can tell her kids, “These are the photos my mom and dad took when I graduated to middle school.” And maybe she’ll tell them about the other times we were there.

Actually, all the kids were smiling at their parents. Smiling and waving and just being crazy kids loving their crazy silly parents. But I only noticed our big angel. “Hey girl! Look here for another photo! Do it or else I’ll dance!” That always got her laughing. And maybe a bit worried that her dad will actually do it. Because she knows he will!

The bully? She wasn’t waving. She wasn’t blowing kisses. She was bloody well pushing and shoving the other kids. With her arms folded and a frown on her face each time one of the kids close to her smiled and waved. You could see her lips moving. Saying things like, “Stop it you” and “Oh puh-leeze you wimp”. But I wasn’t going to let her spoil our special day. I was just smiling and waving and doing crazy things to let my girl never forget this special day.

The school had this really cool thing they do for children who do not have a younger sibling. They are given a rose to give to their parents. A thank you from the school for trusting them to look after their precious kid. And a goodbye as the school won’t see another one of their kids coming to their school. It was a really nice touch. Kids were called up by the headmistress and given a hug and a rose. The kid will then turn around and look for their mom to give her the rose. And a big hug and a kiss. Oh the mothers cried! Their youngest one finishing school! Look how big they are getting!

And the bully got called up to come get her rose. I was thinking that the school is lucky that she is the last one from her family to come to this school. You never know how her sisters and brothers might be. And I really didn’t want out youngest one to go through the same experience with the rest of her family. I was saying thank you for small miracles…

She got her rose. And she got her hug from the headmistress. And it was a bit odd. The hug was a little longer than usual. Longer than what the other kids got. And why was her shoulders shaking like that? It’s not that cold. And then she turned around. Slowly. To face the crowd of parents. And the tears was rolling down her face. Her little face…

She scanned the sea of people in front of her. But you could see that she knew. You could see it in her eyes and through her tears. She knew there was no one there for her. No one doing crazy waves. No one taking pictures. No one to give her a big smile. Her folks weren’t there. You could see her looking for her mom. But there was no one there. She was just a little girl on her own. Not a bully. Just a little girl crying.

She looked at the sea of faces for a few seconds. Hoping. But here was nothing and no one. Just tears that never stopped.

She turned around and leaned forward to give the headmistress one more big hug. And then gave her the rose.

And then she joined the other little girls.

And she was the only one crying…

What are we doing to our children?

____________________________

From the Loose Ends files…

image509678x

Those REALLY regular and early readers might recall that I wrote a bit about the fat kids once – Let the fat kids play. I can hear the voices already…

“Oh come on! You can’t call the kids that! They are only kids. Shame, poor them.”

Tough. Fat became a swear word because of the pictures we see in the magazines telling us all that we would be so much better if we all look like Brad or Angelina. Or any of those thin chicks selling us the latest perfume or underwear. Okay, I don’t personally wear the underwear but… Anyway…

So tough. These kids are fat. Toughen up or shed some weight. Or just be happy with how you look. It could be worse. You could be too thin. Oh sorry, that doesn’t exist – according to the magazines that cover our delicate consciousness. But being fat is a problem.

Now we call it a “disease”. The obesity “disease”. Crap people. It isn’t a disease. HIV/Aids is a disease. Eating too much crap isn’t a disease. It’s just eating too much crap.

I know, I know. There are a few people that gain weight because of a hormone imbalance or some serious medical issue. But really… Most cases of “big boned” people are due to an imbalance between the ears. Don’t try to pull that crap on me. I am not thin. Maybe “slightly” over my ideal Barack Obama weight. But I’m still closer to Obama than Rush Limbaugh. In so many ways. I don’t eat too much crap and I don’t talk too much crap. (Stop laughing.) I know my excuse – I’m not fat, I’m just lazy. What’s your excuse?

Crap stays crap. Just don’t believe your own lies or that doctor that feeds you crap stories. Your own crappola of excuses. “Obesity is a disease.” Puh-leeze…

Who told you to stuff your face with that Big Mac or KFC Extra Crispy or donut from Dunkin’s? You ate it. Now live with it. Stop bitching. Stop telling me to not make it sound so awful. It is awful – live with it or stop it. Sorry, you won’t find any sympathy here.

You want to take McDonald’s to court? Sue Burger King for their jewels? Did they force it down your throat? Oh… They didn’t warn you about how bad it is… WTF? Are you stupid?

Stuffing your face with too much food is bad. Stuffing your face with too much crap food is even worse. It is NOT rocket science…

I know, it isn’t really the kids fault. But it sure as hell isn’t the fault of the crap-making fast food joints. Ronald doesn’t sit next to you and force the last morsel of a Big Mac down you throat. And neither did the government. So who should be “blamed”?

Hellooooo… Parents!

Or maybe I shouldn’t call you that. You aren’t parents. You are household engineers. Parenting isn’t good enough anymore. Actually, you are right. You can’t be called parents – because you are not parents. And you haven’t been parents since you had that kid in the first place.

Parenting means you have a kid (or kids) and that you are responsible for them and for how they grow up. Not someone else. Not your mom. Or uncle George the President. Or Ms Burns at the school. It’s YOU.

How can you feed your kids crap and call yourself parents? Here is a hot dog for dinner darling. And a nice oily pizza tomorrow night. How about a nice Mac ‘n Cheese from the box on Saturday? Sunday is so special when we all go to T.G.I Friday’s and eat a plate of more crap. Just after we’ve been to The Cheesecake Factory for breakfast. Don’t forget to go all “healthy” when you gulp down the Diet Pepsi to go with you thick slice of cheesecake – extra cream please. Crap parents feed kids crap food 24/7.

Crap, crap, crap.

That’s what we feed our kids and how we act as parents.

Let me brag for a minute…

Many moons ago we took our youngest daughter to Wendy’s. We were driving up in New Hampshire and decided to stop for a quick bite on our way back. It was going to be our first time at Wendy’s. The youngest one was so excited. Wendy’s! Yeah! She loved the ad with the guy and the weird hair. It must be good! She ordered her burger and fries. Big eyes and all excited – jumping up and down. “I’m gonna have a Wendy’s!” And then the food came…

“Where’s my broccolili?” What she calls broccoli. That was her first question. She didn’t touch the burger because she thought it was crap. Hum… Not her exact words but you get my drift. We haven’t been back since. She doesn’t like crap. And she doesn’t take crap. She’s an African all right.

Six days a week she gets a proper meal at dinner that includes at least two vegetables. And she LOVES broccoli. And peas. And carrots. And she eats a good breakfast. And most of the time she gets food made and packed by my lovely wife for her school lunch and snack. Yes. Home made stuff. I know… It is way out there in crunchy-hippie world for most people…

Once a week we eat crap. A pizza on a Saturday or some burgers. Guess what? Most of the time we make those hamburgers or pizzas ourselves. Hand-made patties and dough. And they help me make the food when I cook crap. It’s part of the fun. And it tastes better than the crap from the joint down the road. Oh, did I mention we spend time together doing this?

Sometimes we order out or we eat out. It is seen as a “treat” when things are crazy otherwise. Maybe Olive Garden or Uno’s where the girls can still make their own pizza. Whatever. It’s a break and not the norm.

And our kids eat what we eat.

We cook dinner for all of us and eat together – all of us. It is the highlight of my day. I get home and we sit together as a family and talk crap instead of eat crap, drive my lovely suffering wife crazy and eat our food. Together. A family. You give our kids the option of eating in front of the telly or at the table together and they choose…. The table! Even when we parents want to sit back and veg in front of the idiot-box and eat our food from a tray… They don’t want that. They insist we sit together as a family around the table. Ha! I am more popular than Spongebob Squarepants! And they are only 5 and 11… Teaching us about parenting.

And we all eat the same food.

How can parents make different food for the kids? You should eat a proper meal if you are old enough to talk. Not some crappy hot dog or a mac ‘n cheese. You are feeding them crap and then you wonder why they get fat or get sick easily. Or do you eat crap to start off with? Why all this crap?

Because it is crap! The food and you!

I am no model parent but this I know. My kids eat healthy food and enjoy eating healthy food because that is what we all eat together as a family. They make a link between broccolili and dad and mom sitting with them around the table and eating – and having fun as a family together. They see good food and think of good times. They compliment their mother (and sometimes me) on the food they have every night without anyone asking. Why? Because they actually like the food!

We already joke when the little one asks, “What are we having for dinner mom?” And you can say anything – chicken with carrots and honey, tomato bredie (stew), goggas (spaghetti bolognese) or whatever. She’ll always have the same reply… “I looove tomato bredie” Or whatever we are having.

They eat crap as well. They are kids. But we know what they need daily to keep them healthy and keep us being healthy parents.

Feed your kids crap and be surprised that they get called “fatty” at school? Who is the stupid one now?

Don’t even get me started on education. Everyone wants education to improve. A better school. A better chance for their kids. “Just get my kid a good school and education. You know a chance to make it in this world.”

Okay, but how about parenting. How about you starting to become a parent? Too many parents see the school taking over the role of the parents. Your responsibility towards your kids does not stop when the kid goes off to school. Being a parent isn’t something you hand over. You take responsibility of that. Sort your parenting out before you start bitching about education. Guess what… Education today is better than what it was 100 years ago – Parenting not.

Do you read to your kid at night? Do you help with the homework instead of ignoring them or (even worse) doing their homework with them? Do you take time to be interested in showing them the wonders of snow? Or point at the stars and the full moon? Maybe hunt for treasure in the forest or park? Turn over stones to see what is hiding? Or ask them what they’ve done at school? Or little things like coloring in with them? Or do you spend your time with them creating more crap?

Crap food. Crap education. It starts where? You guessed it…

All this crap starts with… Parenting.

Parents eat crap. Parents watch crap. Parents learn nothing. Parents do nothing. And the kids follow them down to the gallows.

Fat kids and stupid parents. They go hand in hand.

babyhands

Or should I say – chubby. No, still not politically correct. Hum, help me out here people. Maybe something like challenged by gravity. Nah. Let’s go for some French style – food seduce youngster. I really don’t mind what you call it. The fact is that kids are getting fatter by the day. And we wonder why?

The UK just reported that “despite millions of pounds of government money and a stream of media messages, children are more unfit than ever“. I lived in the UK for 4 years and can tell you why they have an obesity problem in the UK (and I bet the same goes for the US). An obesity problem that will kill their children at a faster rate each year. And the problem is pretty obvious. And the solution not that difficult either. Just get out of your nanny-state mindset and look at the problem – and how you are part of it.

For starters – you spend millions of pounds on a stream of media messages. Jeez, really guys. The kids are doing what when you send these messages out? They are sitting on their backsides watching Spongebob Squarepants or Back at the Barnyard (clue – I have kids). And they use the ad break (when you send THAT message of don’t eat to much crap) to quickly run and get a bite to eat. Thanks for giving them a break in between programs to go and fill up. And they don’t sit and read The Guardian or watch BBC News. No. Not rocket science guys. But it happens when a bunch of politicians tries to come up with good ideas – it never ends in good ideas. Same thing happens when Spongebob’s best friend Patrick tries to think. But at least it is funny when he does it. No. You have to get the message into those programs they watch and not in the break in between. Spongebob – guess what he does for a living? He makes hamburgers… What do the kids want for dinner? Krabby-patties the way Spongebob makes it. Just run down to the local McDonald’s to get some then… You have to get Spongebob to make good food fun. Don’t you try it. You will come up with another boring program telling kids what to do. And that doesn’t work. You are not the role model and neither will the character that you invent. Get the cool people who created Spongebob come up with the idea. That’s what they do best. Make eating fruit fun. Not the dreary faces telling people how bad that burger is. That ain’t gonna work. Get with it baby. Be cool and be hip (that is so 80s saying that). Sorry, be hot and be bad. But just don’t put your messages in the wrong place or in the wrong mouth.

But don’t jump on the “blame junk-food” bandwagon. That’s the easy way out. Yes, ban them where you want – I don’t care. Think that will stop kids? It will be like banning porn – the challenge for kids to get it will be just more pronounced. “I dare you to go and buy a hamburger”. Sell bad food like cigarettes or beer and see if that works. Those kids who drink and smoke will now have another thing to try and get – a nice fatty hamburger. And they can try to sell as many salads and apple slices as they want. That is not what the kids want. It is just a way to get the kids there at a young age. They’ll switch to the Big Mac sooner or later. No. Banning them or forcing them to be more responsible won’t work. The best way is to get kids not to want to go there in the first place. Make them the Evil Empire Zurg. Give people a Spiderman toy when they don’t go there. Not when they go there. Get kids to go and play in the park instead.

Of course it doesn’t help that you sold off the school sport grounds for development. More and more acres of sporting facilities are lost each year. Why? Because school funding has gone down the drain. And schools must come up with their own money. And since you gave them power over the assets – what did you expect them to do? Plant a money tree? Easy choice – fire more teachers and give even worse education to the kids or sell some assets? Sell the assets. Who’ll notice? Oh, the fat kid in the corner? He’s just to lazy to do anything. Comes home from school and lives in the high-rise block of flats with no playground. Can’t play in the streets anymore. This isn’t the 50s you know. There are cars in the streets now. Let’s get out the house for a bit and meet up with our friends at the mall for a shake and a burger. Rocket science? I think not. Just stupid government policies and lack of vision.

Instead of playing outside we have to give the kids new distractions to keep them off the streets. Sky, iPod and Wii (at least some action). Nothing else to do but sit in front of the idiot-box and watch a bit of Charlie and Lola I guess. And Lola likes what? Pink shakes. Ever wondered why the young yobs outside are all so thin? No, it’s not because of the cigarettes they smoke. And for sure not the beers they drink. It’s because they are outside. Yes, they might be trowing bricks at windows and spraying graffiti on walls. But they are outside and active – nice and fit from the running away from the coppers. We can learn more from the yobs than from the government messages. Get outside and run, baby, run.

But it is not just the stupid government ideas that should be blamed. No. Parents are just as guilty – if not more. I saw them while in the UK. Sitting and watching Neighbours instead of cooking or doing something with the kids. You sit there and eat your fatty fish and chips from the chippy. And drink your five beers in the pub at night. And what do you think your kids are doing? Huh, I don’t know. I gave them a fiver to go and buy some food. Or, at best, I cooked them some pizza and/or mechanically recovered chicken pieces – all deep-fried. Get off your lazy butts and go and do something with your kids. They are your kids. Not government kids. Take responsibility and act like you care. Eat together and talk together. You live under the same roof and should wake up and smell the burning fat. Go outside and kick a ball or take a walk in the many parks you have. Hell, you can even drive them there if you really have to. But don’t expect government to do everything for you. Be proud man. Are you the same nation who fought two wars? I doubt it. Just grow up and do what is right for you kids. Or else they will turn out just like you. And before you ask – yes, that is a bad option for them. And for your country.

You want to know how to deal with obesity in kids? Just let them play. Just let them play outside. Just let them play outside and have fun. Just let them play outside and have fun and live a full life. Not a full body.

Add to Technorati Favorites
Digg!