[And I wrote this a couple of weeks ago]

Jemima is a sweet little girl.  Brown hair, brown eyes, clear skin, freckles, and a lovely smile.  She is small, but perfectly proportioned so that people do not always notice that she is small.  She is quite shy and likes to stay in the background.  She is very honest and kind.  She is so eager to please, so willing to help anyone who asks.  She lights up when someone pays her attention, and then she can become very playful and full of joy.  She is not attention-seeking.  Quite the reverse.  She chooses to wait until someone approaches her and she is so glad when they do.  She spends most of her time in her bedroom.  She reads stories aloud to herself as if someone were reading her a bedtime story.  She talks to her dolls and dresses and undresses them and looks after them, pretending to be their mother.  She writes stories, and sews a lot, and draws.  She’s a girly girl – she likes pretty dresses and beautiful things.

I know that she is very frightened of being rejected which is why she hides away so much, to keep herself safe, to protect herself from the pain of knowing that someone does not love her.  I can see a look of fear come over her face when she thinks the rejection might be about to happen.  Sometimes she is so frightened that it almost as if she is not inside herself, as if she has made herself invisible.  She thinks that she is not loveable, and however many times I tell her that she is wrong, she just shakes her head and disagrees, politely with a smile on her face.  She thinks she knows better than I do whether she is loveable because she knows what she is like inside.

Besides, she says that she knows that her father does not love her, and if he does not love her (and he must know her better than anybody) then we should all follow suit.  I am not sure that her father does love her, so I never know what to say at this point.  If he doesn’t, I don’t understand why not.  I am not sure he knows what love, that outpouring of affection that Jemima gives so many of us, is.

I watch her.  I can see her talking to somebody who I know is so fond of her, but afterwards she will tell me all the reasons why they should not like her, why they would not like her if they knew what she was really like.  People will compliment her on her appearance and she will bat the compliment back like a tennis-pro before the compliment even registers.  People will tell her that she has done something well and, for a brief moment, she loves the praise, but then she furiously chips away at it, until the praise lies in razor shards like a broken mirror.  People will tell her they are fond of her and she finds all sorts of reasons why they should not be telling the truth, or she imagines all sorts of scenarios in the future that will mean that they will discover the real Jemima and will stop loving her.  It’s so sad because people sometimes get really tired of telling her over and over again that she is wrong, and then they do go away, and the prophecy becomes self-fulfilling and Jemima reinforces her belief that she is unloveable.

It is so easy to crush her too.  I have seen her smiling, enjoying talking to someone, and then someone more assertive comes along, and she will allow herself to be pushed aside.  She keeps a smile on her face, but I can see that there are tears welling up in her eyes as she creeps away, hanging her head.  She does not seem to be able to fight back, to stand up to bullies.  In a way she is just too nice.

She’s explained that this is because it is wrong to be horrible to people and, besides, even if it weren’t, she is worried that what little love that comes her way will be lost if she is not always kind and loving and forgiving.  So she tries so hard to love even those people who are unkind to her, who want to hurt her, or seek to overcome her.  I can see her brows furrow and the tension in her eyes as she tries to find love for these people, to smile at them.  I can also see that terrible fear when she thinks she has found final incontrovertible proof that she is unloveable and then her whole world comes crashing down on her and she sinks into black despondency.  She tends to act very irrationally then and needs time and space to find herself again.

She does have a sister.  I am not sure what the sister is really like, but everyone says she has a terrible temper like their father, and she is very, very good at getting attention.  In the evenings when the girls are sent to bed, her sister will lie in her bed and shout over and over again “Mum-meee, Mum-meee” until their mother comes to see her and spend time with her, and the sister and the mother nearly always end up sharing a bed because she just will not let their mother go away.  The sister has lots of tummy aches which need a lot of attention.  I know Jemima is frightened of her sister’s temper.  I’ve noticed that she stays out of her way, hides in her room.  Her mother seems to try to protect her, but she doesn’t have much time, and she needs Jemima to be good.

I wish Jemima would shout at Them, tell Them where to go.  But she has got in the habit of not doing that because early on, when she was little more than a baby, they were the only people in the house, the only people there were to love her, and so she could not have afforded to shout at them if that meant losing the tiny crumbs they’d leave for her occasionally.  I can see that it really irritates them that she doesn’t get cross, and her sister can try to goad her more and more, just to see if Jemima’s smile will crack.  Her sister hates her for being so good, so perfect, but she’s too young to see that Jemima feels she has to be like this, that it doesn’t feel like choosing to be good, but instead having to be good.

Except she doesn’t need to behave like this any more because she does not need their love to survive because she has all of us – the real family that matters, her friends.  I wish she’d realise that we all love her so much, and that we do know what she’s really like, and we love her as she is, and we’d forgive her for being cross and tired and fed up, because everyone is cross and tired and fed up, and we are not going away whatever she does.  She always forgives us when we are like that, so why can’t she see that?  She wouldn’t be so nice, perhaps, but neither are we, and she loves us …  I’d like her to feel what it’s like to be loved as you are, as she is, accepted as she is, not just with a smile on her face.   I love seeing her face when she does sometimes allow herself to feel that.  I keep encouraging her to do it more often, to let us in.  She’s getting a lot better, growing in confidence, learning that it is OK to lean on us, to trust us, that we won’t let her down.

I get exasperated with her too, and keep telling her off, telling her to open her eyes, but this is making her feel bad because then she takes this as proof that I don’t love her as she is, when I really do.  One day recently I decided to tell her off every time she talked herself down; I found myself having to speak every two minutes or so.  I just want her to be happier, and to be able to feel the love that people have for her run through her veins, warming every extremity, and to know that it will not go away.  She is making lots of progress, and I can see that she is trying really hard to listen to us when we tell her how things really are.  I think she knows that she is quite pretty now, and I love seeing her enjoying clothes.  She bought a pair of outrageous pink shoes a while ago and I’d like to keep them on the fireplace as a reminder of how far she has come.  She can also see that she is not fair to herself, although this is still more of a thought than a feeling as yet.

She has friends who really love her.  Even she knows this if she thinks about it.  Quite a few of them are quite similar to her.  She has some fair weather friends – just as the rest of us do – but most of them have been her friends for a long time and would do anything for her, if she dared to ask them.  They tend to be nice and kind like her and they know what it’s like to be Jemima, even if only deep inside where nobody else can see.

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