Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Postcards from Paris

Mainly texts actually.  Sigh, Waif was cheerful on the phone last night until I asked her if she was eating properly, then she sulked so we talked again later when she was more cheerful.

Then this morning I had a text asking if I could arrange an earlier flight home as she was feeling left out.  Then an hour ago she sent me another saying that actually it was all ok.

Having talked to a neighbour who has herself struggled with anorexia when she was young,and whose advice I value, I decided to mention something to the french family about Waif's eating.  I did NOT want to tell them about her anorexia or the Maudsley firstly because that would put too much of a burden on them and secondly because Waif would be embarrassed.   But my friend said that she had lost loads of weight on her french exchange when she was 14 and that I had to tell the family tl let me know if Waif was not eating.  So I mentioned to our friend (the aunt) when she phoned, that I wanted to be sure that Waif ate enough as she has a tendency to be too thin.

Anyway, 5 mins ago I got a cross text from Waif saying "What was that about letting me do it on my own?  You told them".  Unsatisfactorily, by text back, I countered that I had only said that I didn't want her losing weight because I love her and she has done so well and I promised that I had not mentioned AN or the Maudsley (I hadn't) and ended with "that's okay, isn't it?".  To which she replied "no".    :-(    Sigh, this is tricky but I hope I trod the line about right.  Perhaps I should have given Waif carte blanche to fail on eating but I don't feel happy letting go that much until she has a few pounds between her and anorexia.  The french family certainly don't know about all her snacks and needing 3,000 calories a day.  I hope this doesn't spoil her holiday and her ability to relax into the family.  Perhaps I got it all wrong.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

In France

Waif is safely arrived in Paris.  She seemed to have no last minute doubts and went off cheerfully on the Eurostar at 8.30am  :-)    She had texted me by 9.15 am to say she was missing me already but then I had a cheerful call from the Grandmere's Parisian apartment at lunchtime.  We have agreed that I will call her every evening at 6pm (UK time) which will be 7pm French time, having checked with FX that family dinner is usually later than this.

I am SOOOO proud of Waif.  Had she not gone, I am sure that it would have been a little black mark in her mind for years to come - the time she "failed" to go on the french exchange and that would make her feel sad every time she thought about it whereas now she will feel proud instead.

Even if she wants to come home in a few days time (and I would scoop her up and bring her home in a heartbeat), she knows that she took an important independent step, and would not be embarrassed if anyone asked her how the exchange went.  Actually, though, now she is there I believe she will stay the course as the lure of the 6 cousins and a  pool in the South of France is enough for most teenagers!   What a star.

I am anticipating her not putting on any weight whilst away and will be content if she maintains her 44kg (97 lbs) for the week away and then we concentrate on further gain when she is back.  Looking at the photos in my last post, I can see she really is still thin and I must not forget that.

Meanwhile I have some free time!  It is incredible how much of my attention Waif needs at the moment - seemingly most of the time.  Some of this is because she will not allow OD to help with the FX.  She finds sibling issues tricky.  To be honest, Waif was sometimes a little unwelcoming to the FX and has on occasion shut herself in her own bedroom with no explanation leaving the FX a little bewildered.  A few times, Older Daughter stepped into the breach only for Waif to accuse her of "trying to take over her friends".  Sigh, poor OD, she is only trying to help.  Also poor Waif for feeling that much of a comparison.  I know she has felt this way for several years - she is convinced  that everyone likes OD more than they do her.  This is so not true as they are both endearing in their own very different ways but can be self fulfilling if Waif starts sulking when OD turns up, smiling and unaware.   I wonder how this will change when OD is off to boarding school in September.

I am aiming to tidy and redecorate Waif's bedrooms (she is occupying 2 at the moment for some reason best known to herself when in reality she usually sleeps in my bed anyway).  She said to me that I don't unerstand that she dreams of having a beautiful bedroom and that interior design is where she spends all her time ont he internet and that it is the dramatic love of her life.  Not sure how impressed she will be with clean sheets and a good hoover  ;-)   I am looking into getting her new bedroom cupboards actually but have to persuade my husband that they will be a good investment - currently there are perfectly serviceable 1970's plywood cupboards in Waif's room but actually if we were to ever sell the house then proper wardrobes would be a must, so why not get them before Waif leaves home?

Perhaps I will post a picture or two and you can see what I mean.

Monday, 19 July 2010

I have been entertaining the French Exchange with Waif  :-)    I am not sure that she has not been a little homesick but we have tried our best.

We had a great day in Cambridge - punting and playing boules on the college lawns.

We then spent the weekend on the South coast at a lovely hotel I have been staying in since I was little.

Here are the girls on the pier

and here is Waif on the little Dotto train that runs along the front:

Waif is now back in the non-anorexic weight range :-)  :-)   but still underweight.  When in their bikinis and with wet hair, lots of people assumed that she and Older Daughter were identical twins.  This is great for letting my know that Waif is not so very thin any more but slightly worrying regarding OD who is probably also too thin.

Waif has been avoiding her snacks recently :-(   and minimisng her intake  eg   yesterday, in Selfridges on the 5th floor, we each chose our own meals from separate counters.  I had a fabulous falafel and humus wrap, the french exchange had a great chunky seafood oriental soup and OD had roast chicken and potatoes.  Waif came to sit down with a tiny portion of tomato pasta.  I conclude that she got herself a toddler meal from the Annabel Karmel counter.  I insisted on pudding.

The Aunt of our French exchange student is a very old friend of my husband's and phoned this morning to confirm return arrangements.  Her children will also be with Waif in France as they are staying at their grandparents' wonderful chateau near Bordeaux.  It has over a hundred acres of land and a beautiful pool overlooking the whole valley.  They grow their own vegetables but the Grandmere is a dreadful cook.  Yikes, I hope Waif eats.  I did explain the situation to our friend and she said that she would encourage Waif and that they had the opposite concerns about our French Exchange girl - they were worried she was putting on weight.  Hmmm...I reckon you can see from the picture that she is not remotely fat.  Their whole family are extraordinarily French wealthy thin.   Sigh, it's a healthy lifestyle though.

Waif will be delighted to discover that the 14 year old male cousin will also be there.  She is desperate to know some boys.

One other complication has arisen - Waif's return arrangements have been thrown out by the announcement of the imminent marriage of FX's uncle, whose Moslem girlfriend of 5 years is now expecting a baby.  It is unclear whether her own mother will be able to attend as she wears a burqha which is now to be illegal in France.    Anyway, the upshot is that instead of returning by train to Paris and then Eurostar with the 18 year old cousin, Waif will need to get a flight solo from Bordeaux to Gatwick.  I am sure this will be fine but don't know how/ when to tell Waif in case she uses it as a reason to pull out of the whole venture - she has been vacillating daily as to whether or not she agrees to go.  I suspect that the cousins' presence will be a big pull.  Waif has started packing which I have taken as a very positive sign as they are off tomorrow  :-o

I will be brave and tell her tonight.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


Thank you to my commenters.  Yes, Waif is indeed insecure and controlling and was ever thus.  At the moment, she is my shadow.

I was just looking through my keeping box and found a letter that she wrote to H and me the time we went away for a long weekend on our tenth wedding anniversary and my mother came to stay and look after the girls (5 and 8) and the dog.

Waif was 5 3/4 at the time and I reproduce exactly what she wrote with only punctuation added.  Her version is of course decorated and illustrated.  It was waiting for us on her return:

To mummy and daddy,

wellcome back home.  I missed you when you went away.  I had a wonderfull time and I bet you had a wonderfull time to.

I still loved you when you went away.  I bet you missd me and [OD] when you went away for your holerday. I cryed in the nite becase you wernt in your bed.  I bet you felt the same.  I read lots of books and I'v lernt to sleep in my own bed.  It's jest it gowing to be a wellcome home nite.

When you are dead I will never forget you and I will still love you how much a loved you now because rite now I love you lots.  I hope you never die and when I want to do something for you I cry becase I am sorry for you and I rilly will never forget you never ever.

I wanted to hug you when you went away.  I bet you had fun in the swimming pool.  I like swimming to.

I could of got my nits from Granny.  We don't rilly kno do we?

Love from [Waif]

Sigh, she is the same girl now - so loving and dependent, and yet so capable in her own way......the writing is pretty proficient for a  5 year old.  I suspect she has the same fears now.  She is completely adamant that she will not go to France next week even though many trips have been arranged for her.  Actually, I have forced a compromise out of her - she has agreed to go for not more than 3 days.   I wish I could help her to see that you only live once and have to grab opportunities and this is a fabulous one.  THe Grandmere is to show the girls the sights of Paris and she is a wonderful woman.  Then Waif is to go to stay near Lascaux in a house with a pool, and will see cave paintings and chateaux.  I suspect I will be unable to change her mind.  Even when she says she wants to cycle to school alone, on the day she changes her mind and asks me to come too....  Bless her, I want to fold her up in my arms and never let her go, but I know that is not best for her so I need to help her to grow in independence.

Monday, 12 July 2010

speaking too soon

We have come off Wednesday's high and since then Waif has eaten very little  :-(   She tried to eat only a small cheese sandwich (one thin slice of plastic cheddar between 2 dry wholemeal slices of bread) for lunch today and missed her morning snack.

Sigh, it's a careful balancing act because her French Exchange is over - another 13 year old girl - and Waif does not want her ED mentioned or alluded to, so it is tricky for me to prompt her to eat enough.  Since the FX arrived, Waif keeps grabbing me in quiet corners of the kitchen and telling me that there is NO WAY she is going to France next week.

Sigh, Waif was like this when she was little:  in Reception (age 4) she would happily accept party invitations then, the day before, she would start telling me that she was not at all sure she would go and then on the day itself she would refuse point blank and I would have to make an embarrassing call to the other child's mother.  Eventually, I started refusing the invitations from the beginning.   Only 2 weeks ago Waif was berating me for making her exchange leg only 9 days long whereas her FX is over here for 2 weeks (this seemed sensible to me as a week away plus 2 travelling days  is enough whilst Waif is still in recovery).  I am wondering about the school ski trip in December to which Waif has just committed.

At the same time Waif has come back into our bed at night and has also tried to ban me from going out:  on Saturday night my husband and I had been invited out to a drinks party.  No big deal really but we rarely go out.  I knew that Older Daughter would not be around so had spoken to Waif some days beforehand to see if she and the FX would like a babysitter or at least some company from one of the older girls in our street.  She said NO WAY.  She is 14 next month and we would be nearby so that seemed reasonable.  Anyway, on the day itself, Waif was in floods of tears saying I could not leave her.  Partly this was tiredness as OD had had her 16th birthday party on Friday night and we were all up until 2am but partly this is a symptom of Waif's renewed clinginess.   Matters were not helped when H gave Waif a stern talking to about responsibility and sticking to commitments (re going to France) and about being a baby not wanting to be left on her own (re the party on Saturday night).  Reader, I didn't go.  H went on his own.

I am reading a book at the moment by Tony Parsons with a great line:  "When is it that a marriage gets to be more about the children and less about the man and his wife?"  Pretty much when they are born, I reckon.

I am trying to encourage Waif to not make snap decisions about France.  I want her to think about how proud of herself she will feel if she goes to France in contrast to the disappointment she will feel if she doesn't. Naturally, I will not make  her go but I sincerely think that it will be a blow to her self esteem if she pulls out and that it would boost her to face the challenge.  I will see if I can organise an earlier train for her to come back on, perhaps limiting her visit to 5 days.  I know that part of the issue is that the FX is a serious, quiet child from a very serious, academic Parisian family, but H and I know the Grandmother who is warm and bubbly and has arranged all sorts of trips for Waif and FX back in Paris and in the Loire valley (the mother works as a senior scientist) and I think that there will be other children around to leaven the atmosphere.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Maudsley again

Waif and I had a good visit to the Maudsley yesterday. She weighs 43.9kg   !!!!!   :-)   This is a massive gain of about 2.5kg on 3 weeks ago and she is on course for reaching her target weight of 48kg by September.  She needs to do this if she wants to be able to go to boarding school in 2012.  I am sooooo proud of her.  On the day itself, she was very upset because she had had an upset stomach at school in the morning and was worried that her hard work would be unrecognised, but even so she showed this great gain.

Waif suddenly LOOKS so much more healthy, and normal, and beautiful.

Older Daughter couldn't come to the appointment as she is doing work experience in a hospital this week, pursuing her ambition of entering medical school.  My husband was aiming to come but mixed up the times so missed it but actually it was a very short and easy session as it always is when Waif has made good progress. She only gets a complete grilling when she has not put on much weight.

In the later afternoon, we went to Waif's Prizegiving ceremony at school. It was a result as the guest of honour, Sir Isaac Newton (not really, but similar) was stuck on the motorway so we were spared the speeches and were able to escape into the late evening sunshine for drinks with the staff in double quick time.

I guess even when it goes smoothly, the Maudsley is a strain for Waif.  As is usual on visit days, she ended the evening in floods of tears and sobbing and wanted lots of hugs and cuddles.  Ostensibly this was about having some itchy mosquito bites but really it was a Maudsley day.

Today, I had a day out with Waif.  We went to the Hampton Court Flower Show - we took the train to Richmond and then cycled along the river bank for the remaining miles.

We stopped at one of the Conceptual gardens and fortuitously spoke to the designer as I asked him about his pink cornflowers.  He explained the philosophy to us:

Around the outside were tall thin perspex columns that could be blown with the wind (of fashion) and acted as a "cage" for the size zero models inside.  The size zero models were represented by tall thin drainpipes painted bright pink, and the audience and onlookers were multicoloured cornflowers.  "They think they are special but are just ordinary meadow flowers blown about by the lightest of winds of change".  The perspex pipes were the cage that is difficult to see but surely traps the thin models.  Waif and I were slightly dumbstruck.  It was very beautiful and I hope to post a picture of it in due course.

Sgh, we are not wholly there.  Waif was stressed out by the crowds on the way home and picked her skin so much it bled (her latest place is on her ear - there is usually one place on the go at a time).  Ho hum, perhaps that is within the limits of normal but it is sad for her that she is not more relaxed in the face of stress.  Poor thing.

Tomorrow, Waif's french exchange student arrives on eurostar and OD has her 16th birthday party in our house (yikes).

Monday, 5 July 2010

I love the Summer

This is Waif yesterday as we walked home from lunch at the pub, she, engrossed in a book (the sequel to Chocolat by Joanne Harris)

On 18 May Waif came in at 41.3kg on our super duper scales.  Today she is 43.9kg   :-)  :-)    She was wearing a belt today so, allowing for that, that represents a gain of 2.5kg in about 6 or 7 weeks.  I am happy with that.  Waif is happy with that.

Meanwhile, Older Daughter went for a check up last week and the nurse told her that at a BMI of 18.3, she should under no circumstances lose any weight.  Waif takes this as incontrovertible proof that we are a "light family".  I take it as a sign that OD should try to gain some pounds before she goes off to board in September where the choice and quality of food might not be as tailored to her likes (steak and chips mainly).

At the weekend, we went to a family party and stayed at a local hotel.  Waif and I went for an early morning run along the Thames in the beautiful sunshine that has set in of late, followed by a refreshing dip - in the pool, not the river!  Part of Waif's recovery is that we are not all spending every waking moment worrying about what and whether she is eating and we can begin to relax and enjoy family life once more.  Caveat:  I know, no complacency, after all she is still in the anorexic weight range and may still be at Wednesday's weigh-in at the Maudsley as I swear she has grown another inch - I now have to wear heels to match her height.

Oh, Waif has won 4 subject prizes at school (there is one per subject per year) wth prize giving this Wednesday evening (hmmmm...after a Maudsley visit in the afternoon).  I am minded to go and ask the Headmaster for an honorary scholarship.  Sigh, I had always thought of Waif as my less academic daughter.  Hmmm...she took longer to learn to speak than OD, and to be grammatically perfect, but her hard work more than makes up for it.  Yes, her perfectionism is also a worry to me.  My family all tell me that that is exactly how I was at her age.  I suspect it is true.  On the one hand it presents a problem:  I do NOT want Waif to be always striving for fear of failure, and completely agree with the commenter who pointed out that perfectionism is simply not achievable at GCSE, where there is an enormous volume of work, and will inevitably lead to incredible stress and fatigue.  On the other hand, academic success at school sets one up for the rest of one's life:  entry to a top university opens many, many doors forever in career terms and gives one options.  I don't want to squash Waif's achievements but do want her to know that she is valued even more highly for simply being her loving, kind self and that I would love her, we all would love her, just as much if she was bottom of the class.  Yet I still confess to being extraordinarily proud of her success.

Oh, and this is Waif last Friday evening, when we had a picnic in the park with some friends WHO HAD A BADMINTON SET :-)

 We have such golden lives.