Susie Mallett

Parent blog

Monday 9 April 2012

Thoughts on writing, gardening and conductive friendships

"Taking a well earned rest!"


I sometimes wonder whether if I did not go to work would I run out of things to write about. After further consideration I think that there is probably no danger of that happening.

I have not been at work much for over a month now. I was off sick for almost three weeks and after a few days back at work I went off to England for a couple of weeks with my Dad.

The garden called!


What a lovely surprise it was when I arrived home to find that the digging had all been done. A young neighbour has also been helping my Dad rebuild bean frames, prune current bushes and fruit trees and create a wild-flower garden. The garden looks marvellous after several years of neglect. All that was left for me to do was the weeding, the mowing and lots of tidying up after winter. I even had time to admire the spring flowers.

Mowing the lawn and the grass in other parts of the garden takes me just over two hours. Sometimes when the weather is really warm I have to do it in two shifts especially when it has been left to get a bit too long.

Even though there was some lovely pre-Easter sunshine it was not too warm and I managed the work in one go, although the poor old mower allowed me a few breaks when it could not cope with the huge amount of moss in the grass. While I de-mossed the mower I was reminded of the many years that my Mum raked the lawn in the spring to collect the moss for lining hanging-gardens; she supplied the whole neighbourhood and kept our lawn looking green. She also supplied the local robin with grubs feeding him from her hand. When I worked beside her he would feed from mine too.

While I work in the garden I am rarely think about the plants I tend, pull up or plant. I am thinking about my Mum or my work, often I am writing blog postings.

This is the posting that I wrote in my head on my last attempt at the weeding before the Easter rain arrived:

Conductive Friendship

Forever friends

I do not have a friend from childhood, the only person of my generation who I have known all my life is my sister.

My sister regularly meets the girl who she started school with fifty years ago, and my Dad still regularly visits a friend who he has known for eighty-one years since they started school. Later they worked together for forty-five years.

In my after-school conductive group, where my Littlies still come two or three times a week and I suppose are really no longer Littlies, there are two very close friends. Whenever they meet they are inseparable.

Little Princess and Jolly Professor have known each other since 2005 when they were two and three-years old respectively and attended our parent-and-child group. I worked in that group too, it seems such a long time ago. To Little Princess and Jolly Prof. it is almost a life-time.

They attended our parent-and-child group for a couple of years and then were the founders of our integrated Kindergarten, their parents were adamant that their conductive upbringing would continue but also wished for their integration with non-disabled children. They were pioneers and we have a very successful integrated Kindergarten ever since, mainly due to them.

It is also due to these two children that we have a very successful after-school programme, great communication with the teachers in the local schools and with classroom assistants too. This all developed around these pioneers too.

Friendships develop between the other members of the group but it is Little Princess and Jolly Prof. who seem to be glued together at the shoulder. They understand each other wonderfully and know exactly what the other can do and where help is needed. I have some lovely photographs of Jolly Prof. helping to pull off Littlie Princess’s splints and of Littlie Princess helping Jolly Prof. space the words they were writing on a greetings card, and all the time in both activities they were hooting with laughter!

Jolly Prof. can walk independently, he has done so for about three years now and Little Princess is just beginning to find the body strength and the control to take more and steadier steps now managng up to twenty alone.

On one of the few days that I returned to work after being ill, before my trip to see Dad, the sun came out and we were able to go outside for some much needed fresh air. The children are in school all morning and after lunch with us they often ask whether they can go outside for some fresh air especially now that winter is slowly giving way to some warmer weather. We are a very flexible team. When possible we just take everything that we had planned outside with us or do something completely different using what nature gives us.

As I was on my way to the garden, walking with Littlie, Jolly Prof. passed by. I spontaneously grabbed his hand and stuck Little Princess’s hand in his. She was beaming and he looked as proud as punch as they made their way hand-in-hand out of the door.

As we hit the fresh air and the less even ground walking became more difficult but they still managed two or three steps before my hand appeared to steady them.

Jolly Prof. who often trips over his own feet kept a steady figure because he knew that if he fell so would Little Princess. He felt very responsible for his friend. Later he told me that his hand had been aching so much from holding her so tight, but he would never let go of his grip in case she fell.

The other children were outside with us and repeatedly asked these two friends what they wanted to play. They were asked to chose between skittles, croquet or football, but no, they now had something else on their minds and did not wish to play. They wanted to practise. They had decided that walking along hand-in-hand was rather nice and they would like, one day, to walk home together in this way, without a conductor or a mum watching over them and this needed a lot of practise.

And practise they did.

Little Princess wanted to walk on the grass to soften the falls a bit, but Jolly Prof. is a bit wobbly on grass.
A compromise was found and they walked on the pavement and were still out there practising when their Mums arrived to take them home. Oh, how they would have loved to immediately be able to walk home together - only 500 metres to Littlie’s home, but  even that short distance would take them hours and even we did not have time for that. They will practise and with their determination I know that one day they will make it. It may take them another seven years to learn , but as they learn their already close friendship will grow.

I very much hope that I am there to witness the day that these two special friends walk home together hand-in-hand.

The experience that I described above had me and both mums wiping tears from the corners of our eyes. When we reach the moment when I am no longer needed to help the children along I am sure we will all need a supply of handkerchiefs to wipe away our tears of joy.

Rarely have I had two children in my groups who pay so much attention to each other’s needs that they are able to work in this way with each other. We often pair the children up to play games, sometimes while sitting and sometimes when standing or walking. Off course all the children like to help their playmates to succeed but they do not usually concentrate as these too did. There was a special bond between Jolly Prof. and Little Princess that allowed them to walk so well together. They care very much for each other and watch intently what the other one is doing, not only while walking but in everything they do together. Whether playing football, reading, chatting and laughing their eyes rarely leave each other.

Over the next few years the amount of work at and after school will increase and the amount of time available for conductive group work is bound to decrease. Already I am planning how I will be able to provide these two friends, and the other children in our after-school group, with the opportunity to meet in their teenage years. The social development of these children is just as important to them, and to me, as their physical development.

I observe how the relationships that my sister and my Dad both still have with their old school mates are so valuable to them, the understanding that has developed after so long makes being together with their friends so easy for them.

The chosen path will be difficult for these youngsters with disabilities who are tackling life in the mainstream-lane. The conductive team will be there to help them on their journeys and one way that we will certainly help is by giving them the chance to spend time with their special, understanding and caring friends.


  1. Susie, Love, love, love this post and especially love the photos. You must be so proud of your children (O.k. I know they are not really your children)but you are blessed to have them and they you! Isn't it just so sweet and special how Jolly Prof. looks out for Little Princess with all of his might, he knows he is responsible for this precious Littie, not an easy task at all but he does it with much grace and determination. Beautiful, just beautiful!

    1. Thank you, Janet, for your comments.

      Jolly Prof. not only looks after his best friend but at the same time he makes sure he looks after himself too. This is a great motivation for him too.

      I have not seen them for three whole weeks and I wonder what surprises they have in store for me.