(And why a gratitude journal didn’t)

A woman making herself smile by pushing either side of her face up with her hands
A woman making herself smile by pushing either side of her face up with her hands
Photo by Zulmaury Saavedra on Unsplash

I feel a lot of tenderness for my teenage self. She was unhappy, but I don’t blame her for it. Her reactions were understandable responses to the dysfunction and denial around her. …


Encourage them to think outside the box — and explore the world beyond their preferences.

A bunch of colourful helium balloons is floating up through a clear blue sky.
A bunch of colourful helium balloons is floating up through a clear blue sky.
Photo by Ankush Minda on Unsplash

Imagine this scenario. You, an adult, have a new job. Your manager is showing you the ropes, and you interject:

“What’s your favourite bit of the job?”

“Uh, well — probably liaising with clients.”

“Who’s your favourite client?”

“Sorry?”

“Your favourite.”

“Um, I’m not sure — “

“You’re only allowed one!”

Your manager would probably be regretting hiring you at this point, but words like “immature” and “childish” might also come to mind. Unfairly, I think, since it’s not children who perpetuate this weird form of interaction, but adults who — lacking a way of meaningfully engaging with children— impose…


The more you try to “fix” yourself, the more broken you feel.

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

I was 25 years old and I’d just fallen out with a friend. We’d both said things calculated to hurt one another, but when I reached out to make a half-baked apology (of the ‘if you’ll say you’re wrong, I’ll say I’m wrong’ variety) she didn’t take the bate. She was talented, volatile, funny, charming, sensitive, cruel, and kind: in other words, she was a person. In childhood I’d been able to brush off scraps with classmates: “so what, I never liked you anyway!”. But this time, however much I wanted her to conform to my idea of a villain…


A word of warning for my daughter

Photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash

I hope my daughter is spared the kind of teacher who takes her aside and in a hushed voice tells her she’s special: she’s not like the other kids. That she’s got something. The kind who turns off the lights in his office after school — so anyone looking in won’t ‘get the wrong idea’. The kind who sends her text messages to check she’s okay, because after all, she’s unhappy — and doesn’t need him to tell her so — but his concern leaves her wondering whether, perhaps, she’s fundamentally not okay. Whether there isn’t, perhaps, something broken that…


We couldn’t afford to buy into modern life, so we opted out — and we love it.

Photo by Celeste Horrocks on Unsplash

‘Family’ can’t truly thrive unless we start viewing the rest of the world as family too

I wouldn’t call myself a hippie, but here I am: living in community, among people who care about our planet, about living green, sustainable lives whilst interrogating what it means to be human, and what it means to live in relationship with one another.

It’s not so much idealistic, as it is realistic about the deep need we humans have to be social, and our very real potential to extend a care for ourselves and our immediate families beyond the limited scope of the…


(And start making radical changes to your life)

Photo taken from above of a woman in a pink dress lying on grass, her hair fanned out — one hand on her head and the other on her chest.
Photo taken from above of a woman in a pink dress lying on grass, her hair fanned out — one hand on her head and the other on her chest.
Photo by Luis Machado on Unsplash

As a teenager, I’d always felt “wrong” for being so anxious and unhappy — I saw these feelings as a sign of my failure to fit in, and as long as I felt them, I thought I would never be the well-adjusted person I so wanted to be. If only I could just be like everyone else. If only I wasn’t so uncomfortable.


(Your fear of being different is holding you back)

A woman is falling — slowly — one arm reaching up, her body covered in a projected floral wallpaper pattern.
A woman is falling — slowly — one arm reaching up, her body covered in a projected floral wallpaper pattern.
Photo by Isi Parente on Unsplash

Family folklore says that toddler-Me had a lot to say. My aunts, who were teenagers at the time, like to remind me that on babysitting nights I’d talk so much at bedtime that they’d shut me in the cupboard to try to get me to stop — and I’d happily continue the conversation from the other side of the door.

Then school and adolescence happened, and I learned to pipe down, hold my tongue — and eventually keep quiet. At fifteen, I didn’t even know what I thought, I’d got so used to nodding and agreeing: obedient to the extent…


Maybe we need to stop being so defensive.

A mother is kneeling and whispering into her young daughter’s ear. The girl is smiling.
A mother is kneeling and whispering into her young daughter’s ear. The girl is smiling.
Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

I was speaking with an older and wiser friend recently — a mother of three grown children — and I mentioned a prickly interaction with a family member who thought I was overindulging my three-year-old by letting her co-sleep with me. I was grumbling about being scrutinised, misunderstood, about my family member’s lack of understanding about early attachment and child development, and about the audacity to pass comment on the decisions I was making.

My older-wiser friend stopped me short: “Pffff: you’re a parent: you signed up for this.”

“For what?”

“For being judged! It’s part of being a parent.”


(It’s part of the creative process)

Photo by Maahid Photos on Unsplash

How the myth of creative genius is failing you.

I used to be one of those people with a drawer full of abandoned first drafts. Writing meant the first part: scrawling pent-up confessions in the middle of the night, or the breathless beginnings of novels that seemed like a sure thing until I saw them in the unforgiving light of day. When they failed my quality test, as they invariably did, they went into that drawer. Better luck next time.

I associated rewriting with an entirely different kind of person: business-minded, dispassionate, perfunctory, possibly wearing a suit — basically, a whole different personality that it would be unnatural for…


I feel like it’s finally time I got my license — but I don’t want to.

Photo by Yogi Purnama on Unsplash

The only car I should be driving is a driverless one — and I’ve been saying this for as long as I can remember, and long before, I imagined it would be a real possibility in my lifetime. They’re overdue now — the Guardian predicted we’d all be “permanent backseat drivers” by now. Regardless of whether or not driverless vehicles will be hitting the market any time soon, it’ll be a while before I can afford one, and in the meantime, as plenty of people remind me, I should really learn to drive. The ‘really’ is important here. It’s all…

Anna Valerie

Naturally secretive, trying to be brave. New to Medium. Words in Curious & Modern Parent, & you can join my email list here: https://www.annavalerie.com/

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