Some Mothers Do Have 'Em

Daily Mail (London), March 20, 2004 | Go to article overview

Some Mothers Do Have 'Em


Byline: LISA SEWARDS

Guy Ritchie's mum cooked supermarket fishcakes for Madonna, and Jonathan Ross always rings in from the Oscars. To mark Mother's Day tomorrow, four special mums reveal some home truths to LISA SEWARDS

Shireen Ritchie

Shireen, 57, brought up film director Guy Ritchie as her own. She is mother to Oliver, 24, and has been stepmother to Guy, 35, husband of Madonna, and his sister Tabitha, 37, since they were young children. She is married to John Ritchie, a retired advertising executive, and they live in west London.

Shireen says: I had Oliver when I was in my early 30s, but sadly my marriage with his father broke up.

Quite soon after that John Ritchie came into my life in a romantic way, even though we'd known each other for many years. We were married when Ollie was two, so really John has been a stepfather to him all of his life.

John's children, Tabitha and Guy, came to live with us when they were about 12 and ten.

In a way, it was a shock to the system. I knew I was inheriting stepchildren and I was expecting the periodic family lunch on Sundays, but suddenly I found myself with a full-on family.

It was fun in many ways, but it certainly takes a while to adjust to.

When Guy first appeared he had strange eating habits and for the first few weeks he ate only cereal. I was very concerned by this and didn't know quite how to deal with it; I thought I'd better leave it until he settled in. I tried to bring a few rules in and I think maybe I tried to go too fast at times, because I can be a bit of a control freak. We certainly had our moments, but it settled down in the long run.

When we first moved in to our family house, Guy's bedroom was a tiny room right at the top. In the end we built an extension and he got a propersized-room. I remember once when we'd been out to a party and arrived back in the early hours, we heard Guy shout 'Hello', and when we looked up, what we thought was our dog came flying out of the window. We screamed hysterically and went rushing to catch him. But Guy is a great practical joker. It was, in fact, only his black sweater which he'd knotted up to look like our pet. His jokes kept us on our toes.

Guy eventually went to boarding school and I'd send his trunk off with a whole load of clothes and an entirely different set would come back at the end of term. I'd say to him, 'What happened to them?' Then he'd say, 'Someone liked this so I swapped that for that.' This lack of order took a while for me to get used to, but in the end I realised it didn't matter much. All three children were quite untidy.

Guy has changed since he got married and has become a lot better. Women do have this effect on men - they deslob them and tidy them up. It was John's responsibility to discipline Guy and I remember one confrontation between them when I thought, 'Gosh, this is going to get physical in a moment.' They went nose to nose and then they both stepped back. That was Guy's physical flip from boy to man.

Guy's own family is very close. He is fantastic with Madonna's daughter, Lourdes - he seems to be a very good stepfather. Rocco's name for John is 'Gaga,' and he has a mild American accent. Both Guy and Madonna are very structured parents - from what we see, they are a wonderful, loving and stable family who spend a lot of time together. They don't like to be separated and make an effort not to be apart from the children. When they're over in London, we always try and spend as much time as we can with Rocco.

I have told Madonna a few anecdotes about when Guy was a boy. I do remember being on holiday in France staying with friends. Tabitha was about 15 and Guy was a couple of years younger. Guy decided he wanted his ears pierced so they disappeared upstairs into the bathroom and we heard these horrendous screams as Tabitha tried unsuccessfully to pierce Guy's ears.

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