Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Response...

(It goes without saying that not everyone will, but if you would like to use any of the photos or words here, please ask my permission first)

Ok, let's rewind.

Just over two weeks ago, I was a "nobody", and maybe had 20 or so regular visitors to my blog, but I saw all that change overnight.

I originally agreed to be interviewed by the Western Mail, for which I was paid nothing, for what turned out to be largely a very positive article (perhaps somewhat sensationalised in places). My only desire was to promote baby-wearing and getting out with your little ones, to inspire parents to lead active, healthy lifestyles and to encourage particularly single parents, that despite all our dark days that our lives can be greatly enriched by exploring and discovering the world with our little ones, embracing the awe and wonder that can often be forgotten until we view things through their eyes.

Unfortunately off the back of this article, several images were lifted from this blog and sold onto national newspapers without my permission. The freelance journalist Rob Eveleigh from 'Hook News' will have made money from my photo every time it has been used, and I am seeking legal advice regarding this.

The media furore this sparked resulted in a good two-weeks of being contacted 24/7 from worldwide press. I turned down many generous financial offers for further coverage of this story. I turned all this down because, as highlighted before, my initial desire always lay in promoting active lifestyles, it never stemmed from making any money, of which I haven't.

As a result of this media coverage I received a mixture of contact from individuals, all over the world. I chose not to read any of the comments posted on the Internet as many were extremely hurtful, as were some of the direct emails and facebook messages I received. At the heart of some of those messages I can appreciate that there lies a genuine concern for a childs welfare, which is a noble and admirable thing.

Some of those messages caused tears, some laughter, and others were inspiring, humbling, and extremely touching.

Let me go some way to explain, what I know and can appreciate appeared a shocking image to many:

Helmets - We were wearing helmets from different, harder climbs further along the crag that day that Ffion was not a part of. She was playing and rock pooling elsewhere on the beach, being looked after by myself and my best friend while I occasionally climbed.
    The location I was climbing in with Ffion is a popular beach with families and we often explore and rock pool there. Indeed, just around the corner from where that photo was taken, families were picnicking and playing on the beach at the base of those cliffs. Should they also have had helmets on in case of rock fall?

    What was portrayed as a 'daunting, sheer cliff face' is a small, easy-angled slabby climbing area. The route itself (for anyone who knows or cares) is only graded a Diff. It is a popular, well-climbed area. Due to the style of climbing, should I have fallen or slipped I would not have fallen further than where I came off (give or take some minimal rope stretch - to Ffion and I this would have had less impact on us than what she puts herself through at the soft play centre). With the angle of the rock, and the ease of the climb I would not have swung in a way that would have caused injury to myself or Ffion. I got about half way up the climb before Ffion and I were slowly, and safely lowered off by our belayer.
        I am not a 'dare-devil mum' who just stuck Ffion on my back for the thrill of it without any consideration of the situation. Ffion asked to come on my back and I weighed up the risks. She is used to being in her carrier as we hill-walk and explore a lot. She loves being in it, and no matter how much she wriggles about in it to see the world, she has always been safe in it. The carrier is designed to carry children up to 45lbs/20kgs and at the time, Ffion probably weighed around 25lbs/11.36kgs.

        I was out climbing with experienced and qualified climbers, climbing beside me was someone who holds both their SPA and ML awards and is MIA trained. Should there have been any doubt in their minds that what I was doing exposed Ffion to a greater level of risk than she faces in our day to day living, I know they would have shared their thoughts and opinions with me. They though, like myself, weighed up the risks and benefits, as I do in everything I do with Ffion. I have had emails saying I shouldn't even hill-walk with her in case I twist my ankle, but surely walking around town with her carries this same risk? Cycling with babies and children on our bikes carries a risk of crashes resulting in anything from bruises to fatality but we don't see this making Page 3 of the Daily Fail. Taking our children swimming carries with it a risk of drowning, yet many of us engage in this activity. I could go on...where do we draw the line?

        She loved the experience and although I know she probably won't remember it when she is older (aside from the photographic evidence of it!) she still talks about it 6 months down the line, but now expresses an interest in climbing by herself. She has her own harness and helmet and we will continue to go out climbing, for as long as she enjoys it. 

        While I regret my naivety with regards to the press, I am happy with the lifestyle choices I have taken with my daughter. Anyone who knows Ffion, knows she is a wonderful, intelligent, sociable girl with a passion for life and learning. And, for as long as she enjoys it, we will spend lots of our time outdoors, exploring everything it has to offer.

        She has a mother who loves spending time with her, who desires and strives to give her an excellent quality of life.

        Could we spend this much time and effort talking about the greater risks in our society today... children who are living on a diet of junk food, tv and games? Or who are dying from second hand smoke?

        If it's ok with the nation, I would like to continue to focus my energies on being the best Mama I can, studying hard, working hard, training hard, and trying to live each day to the full for the sake of my daughter and myself.

        Thank You. 

        "...I burnt my eyes to see the sun, for what it is, not what the words of everyone have told me I should see, so make your conscious clear enough to make your judgements when you look at me..." 
        Gold & Silver by Brother & Bones

        "And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more."
        Erica Jong

        "If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary."
        Jim Rohn

        "Dare to risk public criticism"
         Mary Kay Ash