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Dawn Millward: You can always depend on the generosity of strangers

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: August 28, 2014

Parkside Junior School in Ashbourne.

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This week, mother-of-10 Dawn Millward looks ahead to the end of the school holidays, and coping with her children flying the nest for university.

AS we, like many others, run on the school year calendar as opposed to the normal January to December, for lots of families the new school year means changes large and small.

For some, each change means a loss and each loss brings with it grief.

Reuben and Teddy changed schools during the final five weeks of the school year. Teddy became part of Hilltop School and Reuben joined Parkside.

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Teddy adored Hilltop. He spent his nursery years with Hilltop and I made the decision to move him to a village primary school where two of his siblings were, rather than continuing at Hilltop.

My heart said this was the wrong thing for Teddy and I ignored my instinct.

My instinct was right, and if I am ever asked by new parents how I did things, my reply is usually: "Always follow your instincts and do whatever feels right for your baby and yourself."

Reuben joined the Parkside community and he loved it. He just fitted in. He has made lots of friends, both in his year and those younger, and had great play times.

Parkside has changed beyond recognition. Our older girls went many years ago and the staff have achieved what I believed was impossible. They have turned Parkside into a school that achieves, that works and is happy.

The atmosphere feels different, almost like that of a large family.

I felt safe, as did Reuben. Thank you to everyone at Hilltop and Parkside for helping, for allowing both boys to fit in and to be made so welcome.

I have to live with the fact that this is the second time I ignored my instinct. The first time, I spent a week in hospital with a serious ankle injury. Lesson learnt.

Change is part of our family life for most at the moment. Alice is a third-year fine art student at the University of Derby, the original plan being that she stayed at home and we supported her.

Alice is moving and I have been helping her to furnish her new home.

As we are limited financially, despite working, and Alice's budget is tight, we have used charity shops and the Ashbourne Sell it, Swap it, Give it Facebook site.

Alice bought some items but the list was far from complete.

In desperation, I posted a wanted ad, explaining her situation and asking for household items at a reasonable price.

It has given me hope, simply due to the kindness of complete strangers.

People have donated unwanted items to Alice or sold them very cheaply.

Andrea, at the Mind charity shop, helped with a cheap clothes rail, Alice has been given beautiful bedding, crockery and kitchen items, a double bed frame for £10 – the list is endless.

These people know who they are, and I would like to repeat my thanks for their kindness to my daughter.

I have bought a variety of items from this site both for ourselves and for Alice.

We visited Encore Re-use for the remainder.

Encore has a small unit of second-hand household items, prices to suit all pockets, but it makes things available and affordable to everyone.

I have bought many items from Encore over the years and love going for a browse, although I struggle to walk out empty-handed.

Back to the story. I explained to John Alice's circumstances and he helped us to find a settee, table and chairs that fitted the budget.

I was overwhelmed at his kindness. Alice cried all the way home as she couldn't believe people's help.

The items were delivered the next day, again making it easier to help local people and avoiding large delivery costs.

Thank you, Encore Re-use and the strangers who have helped Alice.

Alice leaving to go to university does affect everyone in our family. It's a mixture of emotions.

I have read to all of our children and am currently reading A First Poetry Book, by Pie Corbett and Gaby Morgan.

As part of our 26-year-old bedtime ritual, we read a poem called Moving House, by Jo Peters. It's about a little boy moving house and leaving behind his best friend, Dan.

The little boy is promised a new house, a slide and a pet.

The poem ends with: "But I still feel a little bit sad, Dan, who will play with you?"

Teddy, who is seven, despite having an unexpected school move, asked me: "Who would be looking after his best friend Harry?"

I couldn't answer. Could you?

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