Diary of a busy practitioner, juggling work and family somewhere in England

After my last blog, on the physical toll stress takes on our bodies, my dad phoned. 


'I think your blogs are getting a bit moany,' he said.

'But I was talking about stress in Mental Health Awareness Week,' I replied.

'Yeah. But for a while now they have been a bit miserable.'

'It has been a bit of a tough time, Dad. Anyway, the previous one was about Ally McBeal’s clothes,' I countered.

'LA Law, there’s a throwback,' he said.

'She wasn’t in LA Law,' I said.

'What was she in then?' he said.

'It was Ally McBeal,' I said.

'Yes, what was she in?'

'It was called Ally McBeal.'

'Oh. I’m thinking of LA Law. Anyway, you used to write more funny stuff about the kids.'

'I try to mix it up a bit, Dad. Not everyone is interested in my kids.'

'What about DALC2 though with her snooker*? That’s funny.'

'I can’t tell people about the snooker* though, because real people know she plays snooker* and it could give away who I am, what with there presumably only being a few little girls who play snooker*.'

'Yeah, you would have to change the sport. You could say it was snooker.'

So, anyway, for my dad, here is a story about something that happened last week. I want to call it a miscarriage of justice, because that is what it feels like, but we are fairly sure the accused committed the crime. I haven’t told him so far because of the shame.

The accused was DALC2. Let me remind you about her, in a completely unbiased fashion.

DALC2 is the best five year old there has ever been. She loves Kate Bush and Star Wars and Irene Cara and Paw Patrol and everything in between. Having missed half her schooling to date, she is reading fluently and learning her bonds to 50 with ease. She has a very sunny disposition, but only wears black because she’s THAT cool. She is kind to everyone and comes home with half a dozen love letters every day. She has wanted to wear fancy dress to every non-uniform day so far, and couldn’t care less what anyone thinks. She thinks differently to other people, and if she doesn’t become an eccentric singer-songwriter she will be an inventor. Or she might bring about world peace, or be a professional snooker* player. If anyone can do it, it is her that’s gonna live forever, and light up the sky like a flame. Remember her name.

So DALC2’s dad got called over at hometime last Wednesday. 'DALC2 was caught typing "poo poo head" on the laptop with another child,' the teacher said sternly. 'She was made to delete it and knows it was wrong.' At work I dropped the list of clients waiting for a call, the deathbed wills, the 1975 Act claims about to reach their limitation as I read my husband’s text message and panicked.

We were clearly raising a criminal.

'I told her I haven’t stopped loving her' were the actual words my husband used in his message as he told me how distraught she was.

'Oh good, that’s something, then.' I replied.

I tried to think clearly. There is no way she had the mens rea for this. I didn’t like to blame the other child, but seriously. It must have been their fault. Maybe DALC2 had typed 'Po' with a view to writing a review of our holiday three years ago to Portugal when the laptop was hijacked by the other child.

I started to panic that she was going to be labelled as a trouble-maker. I had seen it with other children - the teachers expect them to be naughty so they are naughty. I had to stop this happening to DALC2 or before we knew it I could see we were going to be more Winehouse than Bush. It is such a fine line.

The next stage of Coping With The Shock of Having a Criminal Child came when I spoke to my mum. 'She wrote something silly on a laptop?!' she bellowed, 'And then DELETED IT?! Why did she even need to TELL YOU?!' I might start a criminal law firm where I instruct grandparents to do the advocacy for their own grandchildren- I don’t think you would ever get a stronger defence, would you? I suddenly realised: DALC2 was not at fault at all, the teacher was at fault for making a big deal of it. And this here was the hill that I was going to die on. To coin a phrase from another of the great miscarriages of justice, I was now ready to let her have it.

This is what I did. I sent the teacher a message on the learning platform explaining that I wouldn’t get to speak to her in person because of work. I stopped short of reminding her what I did for a living because I’m not an actual arse. I then explained how upset DALC2 had been not only to be told off for the first time in her life (in fact it is the first time any member of her nuclear family have been told off in their collective lives) but also for her teacher to feel the need to tell her father.

I didn’t even bother to suggest she had to face her father’s wrath because I would have lost all credibility. As DALC2 was worried the punishment was going to carry over into the denial of Golden Time the next day, I politely suggested that the shame DALC2 had been feeling was punishment enough. I also made sure she had her charity sponsorship form and a cheque with her the next day, to remind the teacher that we are decent, socially responsible people of previous good character. I spent double the usual time helping DALC2 do her homework perfectly and I swear if she doesn’t get all her spellings right this week it won’t be for want of trying. I answered the call for volunteers to go and put up some new displays in the classroom. Try messing with this family again, Mrs X, and we’ll show you by aggressively overachieving a bit more. When I eventually did see her in person, I pretended it was so trivial that I had forgotten already and only talked about DALC2’s dentist appointment. But I will never forget.

The plea in mitigation worked. 'I didn’t lose my Golden Time! It was a miracle!' DALC2 said the next day. Not a miracle, darling, you just have a very good lawyer.


*Some facts and identities have been altered in the above article