The Lion King

Last week, my brother was driving home from work and decided to call me up.

‘Hey, have the girls seen ‘The Lion King’ yet? If they haven’t, I’d like to take them.’

‘No they haven’t, that’s really nice. Of course, by all means, they’d love that.’

‘Ok, what happens if the youngest one cries – you know, when Mufasa dies…’

‘Do you want me to come too?’

‘Only if you want to?’

A few minutes later, all of us were going. A big, fat, Indian family trip to see the live action, 2019 version of the epic, ‘The Lion King’ at the weekend.

The Lion King isn’t an easy watch for me. A little cub, loses their strong, protective hero of a dad and spends the rest of his life missing him and seeking redemption. The reason why my brother felt that my youngest would cry, was because she did cry when we went to see the musical in the theatre back in December. During the interval, when we were queuing in the long queues for the toilet, she was inconsolable as Mufasa had just died – and the lights came up. It was more than she could bear. Surely that wasn’t how The Lion King ended? The father just dies? We go to the toilet? My brother’s fear of her becoming upset was founded in reality.

We walked into the theatre together, the children sandwiched in the middle, between their Mama (maternal uncle) and Nanni on one side, and my husband and I on the other. We all commented on how we’d never been to the cinema altogether like this before. It was nice. Popcorn and sweets in hand, we all settled into our seats. Eventually, after all the endless adverts and trailers, the film finally began.

The beautiful, spiritual strains of the choir singing in Zulu began their familiar chant,

‘Nants ingonyama bagithi baba’, which translates to, ‘There comes a Lion’.

I felt the familiar sensation of sharp tears pricking my eyes. The animals from all over the kingdom bowing down to their beautiful newborn prince, Rafiki holding Simba up on the edge of Pride Rock for the nation to see – and me knowing already that everything was going to go so horribly wrong. It took superhuman strength to fight those tears back. ‘You can’t cry yet!’ I had to tell myself!!!

No matter how stoical I was trying to be, there was a part when I completely lost it. And that was when Mufasa tells Simba to look to the night stars whenever he needed help. That Mufasa would always be there for Simba, he would never be alone. At this point, I could contain them no longer. The tears were unashamedly raining down my cheeks, I glanced over to my brother – and saw that he was crying too, which made me cry even more.

You might be thinking how pathetic, a pair of grown-assed people, crying at a children’s film like a pair of children themselves? Well, whilst Mufasa was reassuring Simba that he’d always be there for him, and to look to the stars…I was transported back 30 years, when my mother would be feeding my brother rice and curry, and my brother would ask where our dad was – and my mother would take him to the front door, show him the night sky and say in Bengali, ‘Look up there, you see the brightest star? There’s your father looking at you, he’s always there!’

My brother was only a baby at the time, I don’t know if he even remembered that conversation. But to me, it was as vivid and clear as though it had happened yesterday.

A little later on, towards the climax of the movie, Rafiki tells Simba that Mufasa is alive and takes him to the river – whereupon Simba looks into the river and realises that his father still lives – within him. Once again, a flood of tears flowed blissfully from my eyes, grateful to be released. Once again, I looked over to my brother who was bravely trying to contain himself – but fighting a futile battle.

The Lion King isn’t a movie that can be easily watched if you have lost your father. Every word, every sentence, every scene carries a huge amount of meaning.

The months and years after my father’s death were unbelievably painful. Our struggle as a family, the support that we had to give to one another, the fact that we had no one else to turn to – are days that I will never forget. Luckily, my mother was a fierce lioness who kept our ‘pride’ together and we emerged into strong adults ourselves. The dichotomy that we face is that we will be eternally grateful to God that we were given a mother like her, but equally devastated that our father passed away in such an untimely way.

I often think about my father when I watch my little daughters. I know he would have loved conversing for hours with both of them. My eldest, constantly thirsty for knowledge, he would be amazed with her determination and wisdom. My youngest, the cheeky little one, who I know would have him wrapped around her little finger and make him laugh all the time. How do I know this? Because I see how they are with their Mama, my little brother, and even though my brother never got to know my father at all well, I see that my father lives on, inside him. The pride and love that I feel for my own daughters, I know that he would have felt, as he lives on inside me too.

I’ve said this before in previous blogs but there’s never any harm in saying it again. The people who you love, never leave. They are always there with you, living on in your heart. Giving you strength and love when you need it the most. Sometimes reading a blog can remind you of that. Sometimes sobbing in front of a giant screen, watching The Lion King, can remind you of that also.

God bless.

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History

My eldest daughter, and many other children that I know are absolutely obsessed with one particular programme – ‘Horrible Histories’. She watches as often as she can. Learning about gory and gross facts from different time periods in history. And she loves it. We were grocery shopping yesterday and told me how much she loves history. How much she loves learning about the past. I explained that history is also important so that we learn from the past – so we don’t repeat the same mistakes from the past. She nodded sagely and agreed with me…

In 2008, the double recession hit Britain – and I called it. I knew what was going to happen next. I remember telling people in the staff room of the school that I worked at, at the time. ‘You watch what happens now. People are going to lose their jobs. People are going to become unemployed. The recession was the fault of the bankers – but the politicians will start to stir hatred and discontent and blame one particular section of society in particular – immigrants. People of colour.’

I was right.

I mean, it wasn’t a mind blowing prediction, I’m not pretending that I’m some kind of Nostradamus! But this shit has happened before. Within living memory of some people. Nazi-bloody-Germany, anyone???? First there was a recession, then came discontent, then came the rise of the far-right, then came the ethnic-cleansing, the holocaust of the Jews. They were blamed for, ‘taking all the jobs’… sounds familiar? They were despised because of their appearance. Massive crowds gathered to hear the right-wing racists speak. Chanting in the crowds. Hatred rife. ALL WITHIN LIVING MEMORY!!!

I grew up in the 1980s. Racism was rife. I was happy at the very first infant school that I went to. My teachers and friends loved me. I had a good life. Which sounds hilarious, doesn’t it, as I was only 6 at the time. But then my parents moved house, I went to a different primary school – and that’s where I learnt that I was different. I was a person to be despised. On my first day at my new school, I was told a joke by a few boys who were in my class.

‘You know what my dad says,’ one of them began, ‘Pakis don’t come in tins, they come in hundreds!’ They all fell about laughing.

I was confused. I didn’t get it. What did they mean? I had just turned 7 – and I could see that I was in for a rough ride.

Luckily, I was academic. Luckily, I was good at maths, I was good at English, I was well behaved, so the teachers liked me. I didn’t react to the racists. To be honest, I didn’t know how to. So much of what they said, didn’t even make sense! I spoke to my mum and dad at home and they only had one bit of advice to give me. Work hard. Become educated. Get a good job. You will have to deal with this for the whole of your life because of the colour of your skin…

Things changed in the 90s. There was a shift. Racism was wrong. It was decided! It was not acceptable for people to be openly racist. Note – I’m being very careful with my words. It was not acceptable for people to make racist comments openly – they would be shot down by others. Other people of all colours would react and the racists would have to modify their behaviour. I loved the 90’s and the early naughties. To me it felt like a brave new world.

2019, on the other hand, is a very different beast.

We have the leader of the ‘free world’ actively goading his supporters to chant, ‘send her home’, whilst he basks in the glory of his power to send a crowd into a racist frenzy, to promote open hatred of minorities, his ability to say anything without consequence. This has had a butterfly effect all over the globe. Here, in the country that I love, once again I’m hearing about open racist abuse and attacks on people of colour. Particularly, focused on women. Groups of people, telling women of colour to, ‘Go back to where you came from’. The abuse that is being reported is from third generation British Chinese, or third generation British Asian women who are furious. This is their country. Imagine how much behaviour is being unreported by others?

Nobody is challenging them. When the women fight back, they are told to ‘calm down, it’s just a bit of banter,’ by other members of the public!!! What makes this worse for me is that I remember that things had got better, and the fact that as a society we are regressing, horrifies me. But the other part that breaks my heart – my daughters. They, because of their skin colour at some point are going to hear abuse like this. They are fourth generation British Asians – this is their country as much as anybody else’s. I don’t want them to be on the receiving end of the type of abuse that I received growing up, or that is happening right now to others.

Anyone who complains is branded as a snowflake. Abuse is passed off as ‘banter’. The attitude being, ‘if you don’t like it, you know what to do!’

Sometimes, when I think of the racists and racism coming out into the open, it reminds me of Harry Potter. When Voldemort comes back, rises to power again, the death-eaters reek havoc and the world is in disarray again. It reminds me of what is happening now, in our world. Hatred is on the rise and seems to be winning again. We know what happened in Harry Potter – we knew what would happen from the very first book. We knew Voldemort would be defeated. It was just a matter of time.

A matter of time. There are so many good people in this world, who are kind and caring and smart. If we can learn anything from history and anything from literature, it is that good will prevail in the end.

We, the good people in the world need to unite together. We need to rise against the hatred that is being spread by the right-wing figures in our land. We need to call it out.

Incidentally, there are some incredibly upsetting threads on twitter which highlight exactly what I have been writing about today. If you wish, please have a look, here are the links.

Meanwhile – take care of one another.

One Upmanship

Have you ever walked into a room, surrounded by many, many people, but felt as though you don’t belong? No one notices you, no one acknowledges you, you’re there – but you may as well be invisible. It’s too hard to walk up to people that you know, in one of the groups – what if they don’t want you there? What if they’re having lots of fun without you – you’ll just be ruining their fun surely? What if the reason that they’re enjoying themselves so much is because you’re not with them?

The times that you are surrounded by people can be the loneliest.

If you’ve never felt that way – be thankful. It’s an awful feeling. And the worst thing is – to admit that you feel this way from time to time – it feels as if there is a huge stigma attached to it. People are meant to be like wolves aren’t we? Survival is guaranteed if you’re in a pack – lone wolves – just how well do they fare on their own?

If you told somebody that you broke your leg over the weekend – they would be able to see the cast, they would see you painfully hobbling about, they would see you on crutches possibly. Because of all the visuals, most people would have empathy for you straight away. You’re in pain, I get it, let me help you, what do you need?

It’s nothing new, what I’m about to say, but I feel that it cannot be said enough. When people are going through pain internally, battling demons that no one else can see on a daily basis – they hide the pain, we choose not to see their pain – and we judge them. We are impatient with them. Their behaviour seems weird to us. Why? Because we cannot see their bandages, their casts, their crutches. They seem fine. And we judge them.

You want to know why someone is so messed up as an adult? Take a good look at their upbringing. Low-self esteem, low self-confidence, feeling unlovable, feeling uninteresting, negative body image, feeling stupid and unintelligent – so many of these issues stem from pain that people went through in their childhood. Each of those things – a huge demon that you constantly fight with every day – all because your primary care givers never made you believe in your self worth. They helped chip away at you everyday. Constant criticism of your intelligence, how uninteresting you are, not wanting to spend time with you, your unpleasing physical appearance… Yes, you may have been fed, clothed, housed, educated – but you have also been given shadows, spirits, invisible beasts that appear all too often to tell you how worthless you are.

No one can see them. No one can hear them. Only you.

Parents have a lot to answer for. I will say it. Parents have children – and they have a duty. I know this because I am one. It is my duty and my children’s right to be fed, clothed, housed, educated – and most of all, loved. I am not doing them any favours by spending money and time on them That is their right. It was my choice to have them. They deserve the best of whatever I am able to give them. They are the most precious people in my life. Why wouldn’t I let them know this? Why wouldn’t I praise their intelligence and make them feel incredible about themselves? Why wouldn’t I try to converse with them and make them understand that their opinions, their points of view, their conversations are interesting and matter? Why wouldn’t I praise how strong and beautiful they are? Why wouldn’t I send them out into the world, feeling equipped to take life on?

Too many people feel that they have no one to turn to – because that stems from their childhood. Parents not having the time to be interested in the little things that their children want to share with them. Their own worries and problems being all-consuming. These patterns that people fall into become habits. A little child tells you that they fell over and now they’re hurt. You don’t want to make it into a big deal, it’s not a major graze, you tell them to stop being silly, it’ll be fine. You go one step further, you tell them about a time that you were knocked over by a car and got hurt. That was serious! What they’re going through – that little graze – is nothing! The child skips away. You congratulate yourself on great parenting. You are a survivor, you were knocked over by a car, you were so brave, everyone told you so, and now look at you – a fully grown adult, with all kinds of responsibilities – look how far you’ve come.

You see the problem comes when a child’s issues, their pain is constantly dismissed by the people they love the most.

Oh you’ll be fine, that happened to me too and I’m alright!

Oh you’re always complaining about something, what is it? Nothing? Well it can’t have been that important then, can it?

You think that’s bad? Well, this is what happened to me and look at me, I’m fine!

The most incredible feeling in the world is when you meet people who actually see you. To whom you are no longer invisible. If you’re in pain, it matters to them. They want to help, they want to listen, they want to take your troubles away. They enjoy your company and like spending time with you. To them, you’re not boring and trivial. They quite like the way you look. And most important of all, they listen.

One upmanship on pain – on who suffered the most in their life is futile. Pain is pain. Worries are worries. You can’t compare one person’s plight with another. What we should do, as decent human beings is just listen to one another. Share our problems and worries – not make someone else feel that our issues are more serious than somebody else’s.

On Thursday night, I discovered that a good friend of mine, has cancer. Bloody cancer. I listened, let her talk. Talk through the shock of discovering what she had. The fears that she felt. The pain of having to tell people about her illness. Do you know what eventually brought a smile to her face? Listening to my woes – that paled in comparison to hers – but made her feel better because she had spoken to me about her troubles, and listening to my miniscule issues, took her mind elsewhere. Not once did she say, ‘Why are you worrying about that? At least you don’t have cancer!’

I think what I’m trying to say is that many people are carrying a huge amount of hurt and pain inside them, which could be alleviated if people simply took the time to sit and talk and listen to each other. Look out for the invisible people. The ones who look lost and simply need bringing into the fold. Make sure they’re ok. We complain don’t we, that the world isn’t a great place to live. People just aren’t kind and don’t care for each other anymore. Well, let’s try to be those kind, caring people ourselves. Not the ones who make everything about themselves. The ones who make others blossom in their presence. The ones who make other people feel like they matter. Then, who knows? The world might just start becoming a better place.

You never know who’s watching…

On Saturday, my husband just happened to switch the tv on during the dying moments of the women’s Wimbledon final.

‘Ah, Serena Williams is losing!’ he exclaimed.

My youngest perked up! ‘Serena Williams? We’ve been learning about her in school. She plays tennis!’

It was heartbreaking to watch Serena lose but equally the winner, Simona Halep was such a joyous winner, she won my heart over too. Her speech was incredibly humble and humorous, I was enamoured. Meanwhile, my youngest waited on tenterhooks for Serena Williams to light up the screen. Although Halep was the champion, in her eyes, Williams was no less. She watched in awe as both women lifted up their trophies. The camera shot to the board where the names of the previous winners were emblazoned in gold. We counted how many times the Williams sisters had won the Wimbledon tournament. It was a lot! Finally, Shreeya to me and said, ‘I want to win a gold trophy like Serena Williams!’

‘Ok, that’s good,’ I responded, ‘Do you want to start playing tennis?’

‘No,’ she replied, ‘but I want to win a gold trophy at something, not tennis!’

Her words stayed with me. Maybe it’s because Serena had been discussed at school. Maybe it’s because Serena is a female of colour, like Shreeya, but the fact that she saw her pick up her trophy, saw her name written so many times, pride of place on the board of Wimbledon champions, my little girl was inspired to be so good at something that she too would win trophies.

In a similar vein, my brother called me up to check up on how I was. Our conversation moved onto a colleague of his, whom he regards as a big sister. He was so incredibly proud of her because she’d recently been made a director. He’d seen how incredibly hard she’d worked for years, inspiring others, leading by example a consummate professional. She was promoted alongside a few other people – all of whom were men. As she was the only female who was promoted at that time, a few trolls decided to insult her by saying that she was a ‘token’, trying their best to denigrate her achievement.

I listened to my brother’s outrage about the situation and anger towards the people who would make such ridiculous comments – then I stopped him and began to explain something that I hoped he would pass onto his colleague.

The truth is, the haters, the people who are inadequate are their jobs, the talentless are always the loudest and most resentful of those who are successful and do achieve. The higher you go, there where will be more and more people who will be envious of your success. What your friend needs to remember is the number of silent women whom she is inspiring with her success. The number of young female graduates, just stepping out into their career, looking up to your friend and thinking, if she can do it, then so can I.

Even at my age, I am constantly inspired by both men and women who achieve success – because it inspires me to try harder, do better and question – What am I actually capable of?

The point of what I am trying to say today is that not everyone can be a Serena Williams, but in your own way you never know who you are inspiring. You never know who is watching you and your achievements and thinking that they want to be like you or achieve what you have.

Keep working hard. Ignore the loud haters. If they were any good at anything, they wouldn’t have the time to criticise what you are doing. Instead, know that you are helping a silent group of people who will want to follow in your footsteps and grow towards the sun, through the glass ceilings that you have smashed.

What we can learn from the Serengeti…

I was watching ‘Serengeti’ on BBC 1 the other evening. A wildlife programme about how the animals in the wild interact with each other. A lot of people hated it because it was edited to be more like a film than a wildlife documentary. I let the outraged keyboard warriors on Twitter, whose part time occupation is to be permanently angry, think what they like. I enjoyed it.

There were several parts that stuck with me. There was a lioness, Kali, who had given birth to cubs and was kicked out of her pride because the cubs had not been fathered by one of the males in her pride. As a single mother, she has to now protect her cubs and feed them, facing dangers all on her own. Another narrative was about a pack of hyenas who were led by a strong and intelligent matriarch – who sacrificed her life so that her daughter could survive. She then became the new, reluctant leader of the pack – cowering under the responsibility of this new role.

People’s criticism of the programme was that the ‘stories’ weren’t real. That it was the equivalent of a Disney programme because of the anthropomorphic nature of storytelling. I saw what people meant – but I took a different message away. I looked past the contrived nature of the programme. I looked past the anthropomorphism. What I saw was two mothers, fighting against all odds to protect their children. That much was true. That the instinct to protect the children that you have given birth to, is the most powerful instinct of all – regardless of whether you are a human or an animal.

You see, watching that programme I was thinking about the choices. Some people go through life thinking that they have no choice but to stay in the situation that they are in. Often they are bullied into believing that they are worthless, disgusting, disappointing – that their only option in life is to remain in a situation that is damaging to them.

Choices are more difficult to make when you have responsibilities on your shoulders. Children. Mortgage. Mouths to feed. Bills to pay. Not much money to play with. The fact that people in these circumstances stay and rise up to face their responsibilities full on, without backing down, without backing away – they feel that they have no choice. But the truth is – they do. They can walk away. They can lead their own life and do whatever they want to do. But the choice of doing that – and the consequences of what would happen, are unthinkable.

When I was watching ‘Serengeti’, two of the male adult lions were about to tear the tiny lion cubs apart. They had been fathered by another lion. They didn’t belong in the pride. A code had been broken. The mother, Kali, had a choice. Watch her children die, whilst she remained in the safety of the pride – or fight. As soon as she saw that her cubs were threatened by the menacing lions, she reacted with such ferocity – willing to fight both of the lions, willing to lay her life down for her cubs. It was a choice – but an instinctive one. One that she had no choice over. One that that she made before she could even think. By making that choice, she was exiled. Leaving the security of the pride, she had to leave with her cubs and survive – somehow.

We make choices in all aspects of our lives. The choice to remain in employment in places where we might be treated badly, unappreciated and undervalued. We sell ourselves the narrative that ‘it’s like that everywhere’. It’s not. You’re making a choice to stay in a situation that is destroying you. It’s not like that everywhere. You might tell yourself – it’s not that easy at my age to move on. Nobody else will want me. I’ll just see out my days here…. Well how do you know that? How do you know that nobody else will want your experience? How do you know that your personality isn’t exactly what somebody else needs? You’ve been sold a tale – and you’ve believed it. How do you know that’s true? Why do you accept that?

What inspired me whilst watching ‘Serengeti’, was the fact that within us all, there is a fight, there is a will to survive. There is a will to protect ourselves and those that we love.

Within the story of the hyenas, the matriarch sacrificed herself for her daughter. The daughter, Zalika, then had to step up to becoming the new leader – and to do this, she had to gain the respect of the pack by fighting against other predators and crucially, bringing back food for the pack. There was an opportunity for her to find food for her pack. However, she lost her confidence and let the opportunity pass by. As she was about to give up, she looked back at her pack, saw their eyes on her – understanding the responsibility that was on her shoulders, she went back and fought again to snatch the food away and was victorious.

Each of us, is the hero of our own story. We aren’t so different from animals in our need to survive. In our need to protect the ones we love. As you are the hero of your own story, behave accordingly. Don’t tolerate people putting you down, or treating you as though you are a lesser being. Don’t put up with being someone else’s second choice – and treating you that way. Move on. We lose confidence in ourselves – I know that better than anybody else. But that is a feeling that you have to fight against. We can never let ourselves believe that we don’t deserve to be treated well.

Finally, the most incredible thing that I saw was what happened when Zalika, the hyena, wanted to give up. She looked back and saw who was watching her. And that alone drove her forwards to fighting on. Think about who drives you. Who do you see when you look back and makes you realise that you can’t give up? Look at yourself through their eyes. How would they want you to be treated? Are you being treated that way? If so, wonderful.

If not, what are you going to do about it?

Mistakes

When I was pregnant for the first time and people realised that it was our first baby, there was just so much delight and happiness everywhere we went. Everyone had so many good wishes and plenty of advice to offer. The bits of advice that stuck with me the most – enjoy the time when they are little – it may be the hardest part physically, but it’s the most amazing part and it just flies past. The other piece of advice? Take pictures and videos of children as they grow up. Take them all the time.

The man who gave this advice, was actually the person who we were buying new sofas from. He was so excited to help us. Giving great advice on what to buy, as we would need something robust that children could climb all over. Something that would resist all the inevitable spillages associated with children. But the instruction that he was most insistent upon was – take millions of photos of your children as they grow up. They change in the blink of an eye and you will forget how little they once were.

I listened to this sage stranger who obviously knew his stuff about sofas and also about life as well. As a result, I take photos all the time – of silly random things. Photos of the girls posing but my favourites are when they don’t know that I’m taking a picture. When they are engrossed in a task. Or just playing and in a world of their own.

My eldest is now 8. She’s a very grown up, head screwed on her shoulders, wise for her age girl. She’s always been that way. This morning on Timehop, I saw a picture that I had taken of her from 4 years ago. I remember taking the photo and although she was only 4, I felt at the time that she was somehow older….and I look at this photo, 4 years on, this little girl, with chubby, baby cheeks, and the cutest smile is staring back at me…and I’m horrified with myself. I feel sad, guilty, angry – why did I forget that she was such a little girl at the time? I’ve always treated her – and still do, as though she is so much older than she is.

This photo has come as a timely reminder – because I was tough on her this week. Long story, but the point was that she wasn’t being herself and had done something wrong and I’d been extremely and at the time I felt, deservedly hard on her. But looking back at the photo, a flashback from the past, I see that only 4 years ago, she hadn’t started school yet. She was still a baby. I wasn’t wrong for telling her off this week – but perhaps I need to remember how young she is…

I think back to myself at her age. I did silly things. I said silly things. And even at my age now, I have said or done things that I know are stupid – and I should have known better.

I believe that the universe sends you messages and guidance when you need it the most. Sometimes a gentle nudge, other times a huge knock. But I’ll take this Timehop photo as a reminder to be kinder and more patient. We all make mistakes and that is fine. To remember that I’m talking to someone who in reality is so young and impressionable and not genuinely wanting to disappoint – just a little girl, who sometimes makes mistakes.

We all know better. Yes. We all know better. Despite that, we all make mistakes. That will never stop. But sometimes, I think I need to let my children behave like children a little while longer?

Do what scares you…

Both of my daughters take taekwando lessons. They both enjoy learning the patterns, the different types of kicks, the punches etc. My eldest now is at the stage where she wears protective headgear, gloves and footwear – and this girl, who is small for her age, has to spar with others who are often a lot taller and bigger than her.

A few weeks ago, we picked her up from her lesson. She had tears in her eyes and looked angry. I’d not seen her like this before and asked what was wrong, ‘I don’t like sparring!’

‘What happened?’ I asked.

‘I was sparring with my partner and they punched me in the stomach. It really hurt. I don’t want to spar anymore.’

She was sitting in the back of the car, directly behind me. Although I couldn’t see her face, (I didn’t want to look at her and see the tears in her eyes), I could hear her trying to control the emotions in her voice. Really trying to hold it together, not wanting to cry from anger at being punched, it hurt, the outrage – how could someone hit me. Worse still, within her voice I could hear a request. No. More than that. Thinly veiled pleading. Please don’t let me go back, Mum, I don’t want to be punched again.

Within that split second, I had two choices as a parent. I didn’t want my daughter to be punched. I don’t want her to be hurt. Clearly, she was upset – so I could say to her, ‘Don’t worry, you don’t have to go back. We won’t go again.’

That was one choice.

However, I made the other choice….

‘Baby, I know that you were hurt. But that’s what happens when you’re learning to spar. You learnt a valuable lesson today. You don’t like being punched. Next time, make sure you watch your opponent and put up your guard. Don’t get punched.’

It’s not what she was expecting to hear. The words left my mouth before I could even think. But the reason why we were sending both girls to these lessons was so they were confident out there in the big, bad world. Nobody likes being hurt – and the thought of my daughters getting hurt both angers and terrifies me equal measure – but I couldn’t teach her to give up.

Whilst we ate our dinner that night, we sat around the table and tried to talk it through a bit more. My husband and I both tried to explain to her that she must have punched the other person too – that must have hurt them too. (She wasn’t consoled by that).

Eventually, I said –

‘Well, the worst has happened. You were punched in the stomach and it hurt. But now when you spar again, you won’t be scared – because you’ve been punched. You know what it feels like, you won’t let it happen again!’

She turned to me and said, ‘You’re right Mummy, that does make me feel better. I do know what it feels like. So I’m not scared anymore!’

The following week, she went for her lesson and we kept reminding her, watch your opponent, remember to block, watch their moves. Are you feeling ok? She appeared to be fine but she’s one of those who puts on a front because life is sometimes easier that way. My husband and I just kept our fingers crossed and hoped for the best.

45 minutes later, he went to the class to pick her up. As he walked in, he scanned the room looking for Eesha. His eyes were drawn to a little girl sparring with a boy almost twice her size, circling him and sparring with him fearlessly. He sent a text to me immediately: Our little girl’s a warrior!

At the end of the lesson, she leapt down the stairs and ran towards the car with a huge spring in her step. ‘Daddy said that you’re a little warrior! Were you sparring with a much bigger boy today? What happened?’ I asked.

She just grinned and shrugged, sweaty, happy and slightly out of breath and said, ‘I chose to spar with him because he was bigger and I wasn’t scared anymore!’

I was incredibly proud of her and incredibly pleased for her. She was scared and worried – but those are the moments in life when you have to be courageous – it’s not that you’re not scared. You are. But you push through – do what terrifies you and have a go anyway.

I wished I could tell her that she’d never be fearful of anything again. But that would be a lie. The truth is that even as a big, grown up adult, I still get scared. I get worried.

This week I had to face some fears. I had to take part in something that I didn’t want to do and was worried about it. My husband was away and I was pretending to be strong and fearless in front of my girls. He sent me a text with a message containing just what I needed to hear:

Remember what we said to Eesha when she got punched in the stomach? Go back keep guard up and fight back – similar analogy 😘😘😘😘

And so I went, remembering the advice that I had given my daughter. Remembering that you never stop being scared but you have to step out of your comfort zone and do things that scare you anyway. And it was fine. Absolutely fine. And I realised that it was something that I needed to do, for my own good. For closure. To move forward.

If I could, I would always try to do things that frighten me the least – but growth comes from being challenged. From doing things that you don’t necessarily want to do, or feel that you can’t.

Sometimes – willingly or unwillingly, we learn most about ourselves when we do what frightens us. And when we come through the other side, we can look ourselves in the mirror and feel that we’ve changed somehow. Perhaps standing a little taller. Shoulders rolled down and leaning further back.

But it’s the eyes that give it away the most. The eyes show that you have been hurt, but you came through it and you’re that bit braver and wiser now….