Little ‘Lil

A year and a half ago Lil was heavily influenced by an important relationship in her life.  It wasn’t necessarily a bad influence, in fact in many Christian circles it would be considered to have been positive.  Over time, though, Lil became less of the Lil we all knew.  Of course, change is inevitable in life, and we all become influenced by the world around us at some time or another.  My point isn’t that Lil changed into a worse version of herself, more that she changed to be a version of herself that was unidentifiably Lillie. 

My parenting style has always been to allow the children to be the most real version of themselves possible.  I have always encouraged original thought and given them lots of freedom to explore the things in life they felt passionate about.  Lil is an artist through and through, but during this time she stopped all things creative.

Whilst the change in Lil wasn’t necessarily bad, it was concerningly large and made her increasingly less happy – a fact I should have noticed earlier than I did.

Gary and I made the decision to remove her from this relationship.  This began the excruciatingly painful journey to find the Lillie we all knew and loved.  It has taken her over a year to recover, with Charlotte’s illness and Oscar’s death adding pain along the way.

Lillie’s friend modelling her clothes designs

This term has been all about Lillie.  Our whole family has thrown itself into making any and all changes we could think of to love, support and nurture our Lillie back.  Big families are great like that.  When one man is down, we all gather around and bolster (to quote Mama Mia Here We Go Again!), supporting them until they are strong enough to stand by themselves.

It has been interesting watching her emerge like a butterfly from a chrysalis – and let me tell you – she is just as colourful!  She has returned to her creative roots, spending hours in her newly created art studio.  Lillie had lost all her colour and was now trying to fit as much of it in, on and around her as possible.  Her hair has been many different colours over the last few months, although right now it is a beautiful dip dyed blondie ginger, all ready to dye bright blue for the Snow Ball on Saturday!

Lil’s Jacket modelled by a friend

The colours don’t stop there!  Oh no no noooooo!  A few months ago, she began painting her clothes.  It was wonderful to see all her designs and creative ability coming to life again.  But most of all, it was incredible to see her emerging confidence to wear her designs out and about.  It has paid off too, as a few weeks ago she was stopped in the street and asked about her jacket onto which she had painted multiple album covers in miniature.  The person who stopped her was doing a master’s degree in Fashion, doing her major project on street fashion.  She thought Lillie’s jacket embodied the whole concept of street fashion – a fact Lil was overjoyed at! She posed for photos for the girl to include in her work.

As you all know, Lillie has always been fascinated by jewellery and loves to wear lots.  Over the past while she has had many ear piercings and has also just recently obtained her Ear-Piercing licence, piercing Abigail’s ears a week or so ago.

Older ladies at the church Lil attends in the evening have jokingly referred to her as a rebel!  And our pastor (again jokingly….at least I think it was!) told Gary and I that we were welcome to send her to his house and he would soon sort her out!   It’s funny, because all her beautiful colours, piercings and painted clothes show Gary and I that she is the very opposite of a rebel!  Lillie, for the first time in a little while, is returning to a more authentic Lillie, albeit an older, wiser one.  I LOVE to see her experimenting because honestly a Lillie who surrounds herself in paint, dye and various other art mediums is the Lillie we recognise as our own.  I can literally chart her activities of the day based on the mess she leaves behind her… Bright pink sink? – hair dye.  Multicoloured bath? – Marbling dyes for silk scarf making.  Paint all over the floor, ceiling, walls, chairs and any other surface? – Painting clothes.  A daughter covered from head to foot in a mixture of charcoal, chalk pastels, paint, dye and with a long paint brush (complete with paint) sticking out of her messy multicoloured top knot? – Pure happiness.

We knew she was back to normal when she tentatively enquired about art school.  We attended an open day at the University of Creative Arts, she applied and was offered an interview.  The interview was to chat about her creative aspirations, showcase some of her work and to see whether or not the course she applied to was a good fit for her.

Lil had applied for the Foundation Diploma in Art and Design, a one-year level 3 / 4 pre-degree diploma, usually taken post A Levels.  Lillie has practically no GCSEs (English and Art and Design) and is almost entirely self-taught with regards to art and design.  She had completed a level three diploma in photography, and it was this which got her the interview.  On the actual day, even though she could have taken someone, she chose to do it on her own, stepping out of her comfort zone and showing me once more just how back to normal she was!  She needed to take a portfolio, but as she had done her level three online, all her work was on a memory stick rather than in a portfolio case.  She was the only homeschooled student, the only 17-year-old (all the other students were 18 and over) and the only student holding a memory card rather than an actual physical portfolio.

I had helped her to gather all her work into a presentable format for her interview.  As an afterthought, we had decided to include some photos of her clothes painting (some of them I have included in this post – her friend is modelling most of them).  The people who interviewed her looked through her level three work, making all sorts of encouraging noises.  They whizzed through her level two stuff, and then opened her folder with the painted clothes.  This they really loved, saying it showed her individuality which was just what they were looking for!  Lillie had also worn a dress which she had painted which they asked her about (shown in the first photo and the photo below).  They accepted her on the spot for the Foundation Diploma starting in September 2020, recommending that she follow the fashion pathway.

My precious, incredibly talented daughter is going to attend one of the top universities (9th in UK) without the GCSE requirements!  I am so proud, not to mention a lot relieved.  We had done things a bit differently with her as Lillie had never really wanted to take exams.  Instead we let her follow her passions, and she was now going to university… a year early!!  But more importantly, she was back to her bright and breezy, very funny, laidback self. And Gary and I could not be happier!


  1. Congratulations to Lillie for her great accomplishment! And congratulations to you and her family for helping her find her way back to who she truly is. My daughter is also 17 and an artist. We went through a very similar situation earlier this year and, thankfully, she too is back to her regular self again. I worry about her sometimes because she has such a sensitive soul but yet I also think it is an amazing gift.

  2. That is wonderful!! Congrats! I love her dress; I never thought of painting on clothes when I was younger but I did paint a few funky pieces of furniture and lots and lots of canvases.

  3. I had a relationship like what you describe here in college, and I think it’s okay to call it a bad relationship. Anyone who is pressuring you (directly or indirectly) to give up your identity is not good for you at all. I’m glad to hear you helped her back onto the right path. The world needs people who create beautiful things.

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