Last night I cuddled up on the sofa with my five-year-old daughter Ruby as we enjoyed one of her favourite TV shows. It was the story of Tracy Beaker — who, I should explain to any non- parents, is a wonderful character created by the children’s author Jacqueline Wilson.
Tracy is a young girl growing up in a children’s home — she’s feisty and funny, but constantly fantastises about a better life. One with parents. Whenever she goes into one of her reveries, claiming to have ‘hay fever’ when she wants to shed a tear, Ruby gets sad. So last night, when hay fever struck Tracy, Ruby, too, became misty-eyed.
‘I’m so lucky to have a mummy and daddy,’ she said, hugging me. As I cuddled her back, I felt a terrible stab of guilt in my stomach.
For Ruby nearly didn’t have a daddy. For the first two-and-a-half years of her life, I did everything I could to scupper her relationship with her father. In a fit of selfish pique, I attempted to come between them and deny them the right to love each other. It was the most spiteful thing I’ve ever done.
Thank God her father, James, fought me all the way and dragged us through the hell of solicitors, legal bills and finally to the Family Court, where he won access to his little girl — access that was his by right. He never gave up. Such is the testament of his love for Ruby. And for that, I will never be able to thank him enough.
I remember all too well that wretched day in the Family Court in March 2009 as we sat in front of the judge, with a solicitor between us. James, whom I’d once loved so dearly, looked grey and hollow. I listened with a growing sense of shame as my legal team reeled off the acidic statement I’d made, littered with stupid accusations I’d dramatised to hurt him.
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