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My son’s graduation was on Friday and I had been working towards this event since I knew his father was attending with the grandparents.

I have always felt that because I was just a teenager myself when I had him that the ex-in laws, especially ex-mother-in-law never felt I was capable of bringing kids up. I recently (a few years ago) discovered that she felt my poor home -making skills was to blame for my ex having an affair. In fact, she actually highlighted a page of a novel where the narrative voice blamed the female protagonist for her marriage break up. From that moment on I decided it was not worth my while to stay in contact, (although I do send Xmas presents), I did not need to be judged. These factors may have played on my sub-conscious when I decided to not stay in the UK and head to any other country where I would improve my life and the life of my kids.

So their impending arrival in Paris had sent me to panic stations. I wanted to prove to them that I was a good parent, that my decision to move was the right decision and that I had acted in the best interests of my kids.

As for my ex, I just need to look hot and sizzling and be able to greet him with grace. But hot and sizzling was not meant for me but rather for my home. Wednesday evening arrived, I was about to take my daughter shoe shopping for some decent heels that would get the disapproval of the ex family,(sometimes I am as rebellious as a teenager,) when the police phoned!

‘Sorry…what…hang on! Hilda!’

‘Oui, d’accord, au revoir. Jo, now stay calm. The police are at your appartment because there has been a fire in your appartment. We will get a taxi and make our way there and see what it is all about.’

Immediately, I blamed my son, who was not at home but playing football with his friends. Naturally, all the gutteral language that I could use came out of my mouth and my own temper was lit as I expressed my anger like a raging bull. And the question that came to mind, which I understand is a selfish question, was: Why me? Surely, I have had to deal with enough life-problems!

A very wise friend responded of facebook to that statement: Why not you? Kindly she put me back in my place and made me realise that there were others far worse off than me and this was a minor irritation in my life.

However, this situation would reflect negatively amongst the ex-in laws and prove to them my incompetance. So I was disappointed.

Yet, in my haze over the last few days, whilst three people may have been judging me. Many of my friends came to my rescue, starting with Hilda, who came with me to see the smoke filled apartment. Friends from all over the world provided words of comfort and friends in Paris offered me and the kids practical support and help and so I realised very quickly I was truly lucky!

But the saga continued! On a positive note, I was able to meet and greet the ex-in laws and have a lovely couple of hours with them. Even though I was exhausted, my daughter was beginning to feel ill and we were staying in a hotel in the 19th arrodissement. I felt relatively succesful in that endeavour.

Sleep deprived and emotional, I was fotunate enough to have a lovely dress for my son’s graduation, thanks to Mataleena, another close friend. Additionally, my close friend, who was arriving as my male companion for the ceremony, knew about the fire, had been told he needed to say lots of nice things to me, as I was feeling less than gorgeous and as usual he has the ability of making me feel better along with thinking up practical solutions for me. So surely not much else could go wrong at the ceremony.

Before the ceremony, my lovely friends who glammed me up before treated me to a hair appointment, which turned into a hair nightmare. I was looking a little like one of Tim Burton‘s cartoon characters. My friend took one look at me and she burst out laughing. Brilliant! Her comment was why had I not said anything. I told her I had disapproved one crazy hair style they had suggested. And I am far too polite to say anything. One of my students actually saw me at the metro with this bad hair! How embarrassing!

The solution was to brush it all out which was a significant improvement but had left me frazzled and stressed. I had one goal for that evening, it was to simple greet my ex in a polite and calm manner. How could I do that without looking exceptionally hot?

It is interesting how the people we once loved can make us feel the most insecure. It is equally interesting that I felt I had something to prove to them. Why should I care what they think?

The moment arrived when I saw my ex and his parents walking up the stairs where we as staff were greeting parents. I could not do it. I had to walk away. I disappointed myself. But I was actually petrified!

Eventually my good friend arrived and I was so stressed that I must’ve sounded, ‘cazy’ to him. However, he is a confident calm man and he has a calming effect on me. I left him to go and find a seat and I went to my seat to perform my duties as a graduation homeroom teacher-basically both my son and I were going to be on stage together.

During the ceremony, my daughter who had not been well, fainted. And no doubt, I have yet again been judged by the ex family for not going out to check on her but I knew she was in good hands with the school staff. As my colleagues and friends are fantastic. And when I went to see her after the ceremony, I then ignored her and went to get a glass of champagne. I had two roles that night, one of a parent and another of a teacher as it was my year group graduating. I left her with another special friend, Sabrina and colleagues who are friends and trusted all would be well. In retrospect, I should’ve put her in a taxi to return to the hotel and go to bed but I didn’t and once my male friend left, I then socialised with friends and staff.

My son left with my ex and they did not say goodbye to my daughter. I am not sure if it was because I was there, although I did spend a lot of time talking to parents or what the reason was…but it certainly felt like I had failed in my parenting duties.

I know I should not feel or care what others think of me but in some way, we all do! I just wanted to impress them and show them that through all the pain that was caused in his decision (which only years later I can respect), I have survived and survived exceptionally well…and then the famous words of Burns come to mine…’the best laid plans of mice and men…’

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