She went to hospital yesterday with acute stomach pains and has been awaiting an operation to possibly remove her appendix. This is the daughter who was torn between being a doctor or a teacher on leaving school and as she didn't know which to do, she did a degree in Biology.
She's now decided that she does want to be a doctor and will therefore have to do 4 or 5 extra years of study if she can get a place to study medicine.....and if this experience of hospital doesn't put her off!
So lying in the bed feeling in pain and sick, having waited 'nil by mouth' since 1.00 p.m. yesterday - 17 hours ago - she is getting a good view of the pressures faced in the National Health Service.
All the nurses and doctors are lovely and there seem to be many of them - it's like a colony of ants - but nobody seems to have particular responsibility for her and she is asked the same questions by numerous nurses and doctors. Whenever I go to ask for something for her I don't know who to ask and they all refer the problem to someone else.
We've just discovered that the drip to which she is attached isn't flowing and hasn't been for the last 6 hours - and it was the fact that she had fluids going into her that was their reason for it being ok to leave her without food and water for so long while awaiting her operation.
I am very grateful that I am here and I feel that if I wasn't here things would be a lot worse for Emily because when you're ill you lose any assertiveness that you may have had and you go into a kind of stupor so that you can't help yourself.
As a parent you don't give up those parental responsibilities however old your 'child'...and thank goodness for the family unit because the first level of care comes from family. Those without this level of care are vulnerable in life and particularly in a hospital situation where despite the vast staff there doesn't seem to be enough care to go round and no individual seems to be responsible for her welfare.
This raises the interesting issue of how much we do for our children...the names 'tiger mother' and 'helicopter parents' have been coined as being descriptors of certain types of parenting today.
We all naturally want to support our children but sometimes it's not clear how much influence to wield in the lives of our children. We want to fight their battles for them and stop them feeling pain. We want to organise them and prepare them for the difficult world that they face. Some parents might want to shape the lives of their children and encourage them into a particular career. Darcy Bussell in yesterday's Times was standing up for the parents who are sometimes called 'pushy parents' in the ballet world, and pointing out the sacrifices that some parents make in order to help their children to succeed down a particular path. But how much should we allow them to do or choose or fight for themselves?
We joke in our family that our five children have been brought up in 'benign neglect'. This sounds bad, but what it means is that because Mr. Crehan and I have given so much of our time and energy to St. Helen's College, our own children have had to organise themselves to a large extent. One of our sons was particularly bad at remembering various pieces of equipment for secondary school so he received detentions and this taught him the benefits of organisation!
The effect of allowing our family to organise themselves and maybe sometimes to learn the hard way is that they are now incredibly independent. We have blogged previously of how Lucy, our eldest, has confidently organised home-stays around the world in order to observe and teach in schools that are the top six in the Pisa score, and how she is now writing a book of her experiences. I think that maybe if we had organised everything for her as she grew up, she would not have had the confidence or initiative to do what she has done.
Having said this, hopefully we have always been there for them; one of us was always present at any performance or Parents' Evening - and at one point they were at four different schools and so this was a challenge! And there have been times when we have spoken to people to try to rectify things which we have perceived to be wrong in their schools, but this has been infrequent and to a large extent they have fought their own battles - I think growing up with four strong siblings was great preparation for dealing with people!
But on this occasion, in hospital, even though she is 20, she needs me to fight her corner because otherwise the hospital managers will continue to put operations that they deem and which may well be more urgent in front of her on the waiting list and Emily, our precious daughter, will languish in pain and with no food or water into yet another day...and so my Tiger Mother instinct is unleashed and I make a nuisance of myself until finally at literally the eleventh hour - 11.20 p.m. to be exact - they have come to take her down to surgery to remove her appendix.