Have I done enough?

For two years Ros Coward has written a column about caring for her exuberant, but increasingly dependent mother. Here, in a final instalment, she pays a fond tribute to Sybil and explains why her forthright and moving chronicle has to end

It’s Mum’s birthday and I’m not spending it with her. I’m away. In Amsterdam, in fact. This is the first time for many years that I haven’t been with her on her birthday. I ring before leaving to say sorry that I won’t be with her to celebrate her 84th birthday. “Is it my birthday?” she says. “Oh well. I’m not bothered about that stuff. I’m all discombobulated.”

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2008/oct/18/family-longtermcare

Hogwarts, the haven

Today’s dysfunctional families and fractured communities make boarding school an attractive option again

Just when all progressive people could congratulate themselves that the boarding school ideal had died a natural death, along comes the nostalgic fantasy in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter.

Any child would find Hogwarts boarding school much more wonderful than Potter’s suburban “foster” home. But is JK Rowling really indulging in nostalgia for the past or sensing the future? Is it possible that, far from fading away, the boarding school is about to re-emerge as a viable solution to contemporary family difficulties?

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2001/nov/20/schools.uk5

As good as it gets

As national parents week gets underway, Ros Coward asks whether we ever really know if we’re doing it right

The British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott was the first to work with the idea of “the good-enough parent”. He illustrated its meaning by describing possible interactions between a mother, a baby on the point of crawling, and an interesting toy just out of the baby’s reach. The too-good mother can’t bear the baby’s frustration and immediately hands the toy to the baby. The not-good-enough mother leaves the baby too long with its frustrations. The good-enough mother allows the baby to explore its own capacities but not so long that frustration turns to despair.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2001/oct/24/familyandrelationships.roscoward

How we let Denise down

Yes, James Bulger’s mother is bitter. She has every right to be.

Perhaps the most distasteful aspect of the furore surrounding the release of James Bulger’s killers is the subtle but persistent vilification of the Bulger family in the liberal media. Sunday’s Panorama programme presented Ralph Bulger as “chilling” in his intention, stated last year but since withdrawn, to harm Venables and Thompson. Meanwhile, Denise Bulger (now Fergus) is under constant scrutiny for bitterness towards her son’s killers. Charlotte Raven’s description in this paper of her “pinched-lipped grief” was the most extreme, but others have also compared her unfavourably with more forgiving mothers.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2001/jul/03/bulger.comment

World news Yobs ahead. Tally ho!

With a little imagination Jack Straw could fix two tricky issues at a stroke

Jack Straw has a problem. Try as he might to offer new initiatives to deal with problem families and delinquents, some refuse all offers of redemption. So at this week’s conference, if advanced leaks are correct, groundwork will be laid for two new policies: one soft, the other hard. One proposes to support families with ‘personal carers’, upgrading registrars to advise on marital counselling, naming ceremonies and family responsibilities.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/world/1998/sep/29/guardiancolumnists.jackstraw