There’s a fabulous Dutch thing of having a petting zoo in each town. We’ve one in ours, and I adore it. It’s pretty magical. It feels like a green blessing to be able to walk out of the town, straight into a heavenly slice of countryside. 

Colossal chestnut trees tower over the farm. There’s a field of sheep and goats and fussy chickens peck around. Peacocks and cocky roosters step over the playing kids’ feet. There are all the guinea pigs and rabbits you could ever want to maul to death, with sticky-handed adoration. There’s also a playground with swings that go so high, my kids feel like they’re flying right into the clouds of leaves on the trees above.

During the summer holidays, we went to a parent and child craft session at the farm. We’ve been to these art groups before. They are always lovely and a little bit different, what with the straw bales for seats and the distraction of the animals. 

My kids are a wild card when we come here. The visit can rapidly plummet into a sensory meltdown with a side order of some public shaming, or it can be hours of glorious outside play. 

My anxiety laden thrill is never knowing which experience will be served.

Anyway, that crafter-noon my kids were sitting at either ends of a long table, with other  kids and adults, painting and decoupaging wooden boxes.  They were industriously at it, all beaked concentration and heavy mouth-breathing. There were some lovely lady assistants running the session.

I said something to my 4 year old and she took umbrage. I think I had the audacity to ask her if she needed more paint. 

She answered me, very loudly, and very clearly, 

“I don’t know why you are talking to me. I don’t know you!”. A couple glanced up, unsure if they’d heard correctly. 

Come on!!!!!
Seriously child?!!!

This was new. I’m used to straightforward abuse or being out-rightly ignored. Those I can handle. This was the sort of nightmare statement that could end up with us in the local police station, having to provide proof of birth to the cops. 

“Are you pretending you don’t know me? Hello. I’m your mum”, I used my best lighthearted-but-so-not-feeling-it voice. I tried a chuckle, but the laughter came out tense sounding. 

“No you aren’t!” She raised her voice. The other people exchanged glances. 

“You aren’t my mum. I don’t know you.”  

Fuuuuck. The bloody child. It’s like drama drips out of her with every breath. I trilled with flustered laughter, and asked her to stop being silly.  She wouldn’t flipping stop. She was on a roll. She insisted in a loud, clear voice. 


The table went quiet. Even the belligerent roosters had shut up. 

“LEAVE ME ‘LONE”, she hissed. 

Twitchy concerned older ladies started to move around us, clearly calling child protection services in their heads.

“Are you the childminder?” one asked in a kind voice.

Another lady sat down on the bench next to my daughter and spoke to her in Dutch.

“Can I help you treasure?” she asked.

I was smiling like I’d shoved a hanger in my mouth, but my teeth had gone dry.  I felt like I was coming across as manic. Manic smiling really helps a situation where your child is denying knowing you and other adults are starting to get involved in her lunacy.

The boy, who was being unusually silent, looked up.

“Wot you talking about?” His logical brain was irked by this foray into fantasy. 

I told him that the 4 year old was playing a game and was pretending I wasn’t her mama. I felt the prickle of anxious sweat. The boy decided he wasn’t getting involved and silently resumed painting. I was hoping he’d help. Thanks for that son. The silence seemed to validate her declarations of stranger danger. Damn

The women stared at him. They looked back at my daughter. My kids look like twins that were born 2 years apart. The ladies smiled comfortingly at me, but I noticed the younger one looking hard at me, and the 2 clones I have produced, before she was convinced of the genetic link between us all. 

I explained in tragically bad, halting Dutch that I am indeed the mama and my daughter likes imaginative play a lot. 

“No I’m not. My name is Petal. I’m NOT your daughter,” she hollered from her straw bale throne. 


They were a kindly bunch and listened to my fumbled explanation. You could feel the air relax. They offered reasons for her need to pretend that she’s an orphan. 

“My daughter was very imaginative too, we sent her to an art club and that helped calm her,” one said.

“Perhaps she should join a drama group?” another suggested….

”She needs a psychologist,” I muttered. 

“Yes, maybe that too,” they pragmatically agreed. 

The 4 year old continued to attest that I wasn’t her mum for the rest of that week. Everywhere. 

Every. Single. Place. We. Went.
To anyone who would listen.

I adapted to hearing, “You’re not my muuuuuuuummm!” hollered at the general public. I pretty much ignored her insistent cries. I’m sure she has been flagged up on a system somewhere as needing assistance. 

She has now started a request to move to an orphanage.


It’s a good thing I don’t get offended easily, or this kid could cause me to sob a little. When I asked her why she wanted to go away, she explained calmly that it’s because she doesn’t like me. 

Christ. #Soblessed.

Who knew motherhood could tear your soul out in new and interesting ways each day?

I must have offended her greatly. I’ll never casually offer paint to her again, that’s for sure.

Now, pass me that wine. I’ve got a list of psychologists to call. And maybe a priest. They still do exorcisms these days, right?!

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

I was born in Ireland, grew up in England and met my Cornish husband in Catalonia. We lived in the Netherlands with our two differently wired kids before all moving to Yorkshire. I spend my days parenting, writing and being amazed at all that Sheffield has to offer.

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