What do you do when your child is unhappy?

Seeing as I actually have a little time ‘spare’ this morning, I thought that rather than read the paper (last Sunday’s) I would post about a blog called Mums Make Lists*. It’s one that I’ve even started following on Twitter, if that gives you any measure of how worth a read it is. In particular, this post cropped up at an interesting time a couple of months ago, a few weeks before J-Ba-Bomb was starting nursery and a time of great stress as he was acting out how fed up he was to be around me all day at home.There are a lot of threads in the post that pulled at me.

Long Face

Firstly, it highlighted the importance of just accepting that people are sad sometimes without trying to squash the upset down or deny it is even happening. This is a lesson that it took me a long time as an adult to realise, and I’m still often in something of a state of denial when I’m upset; there’s a part of me that feels that being emotional is going to destroy me. That is not a sensation I want J-Boy to experience, so I try to talk to him about his feelings, my feelings, the feelings of others. He is very articulate for his age about his emotions. This might be because he’s seen me in a tearful heap on the kitchen floor more than once, but there you are. One time a year or more ago, he told me that he was feeling sad but he would ‘be happy later’; I was in my mid-thirties and seeing a counsellor before I realised that, that emotions are inconstant by their very nature and I wouldn’t feel the way I felt for ever.Secondly, the article makes the point that emotions aren’t something to be fixed or resolved; once again, their protean nature makes that jelly-tree-nailing exercise an impossible task. But they do need to be acknowledged and the best way to help the little humans cope with these feelings is to bathe them in uncritical love. If they are feeling sad, listen to them without interrupting and that will already help them to feel better. Just as it would help us to feel better in the same situation – do you see my subtle point?

Thirdly, I strongly identified with the snapping, barking, shouting-up-the-stairs model of parenting that sometimes feels like the only way I interact with J-Dilla. This isn’t true: there are many different modes in our time together during the day. But it is easy to get carried away in what you’re trying to achieve (laundry, cooking, getting him in his coat and wellies so we aren’t late again, hearing the name of an ace tune on the radio) and stop listening to your little communicator, so I try and make sure that we have some quiet time in the day (or noisy time, if you wants to play loudly with his Dad) so that he can tell me what is going on in his delightful coconut. And it is always worth hearing, even if a lot of his chat these days is about Andy Day and his Jurassic travels. If you stop listening, eventually he will stop telling, and that would clamp the lid on another can of worms.

J-Spurt was a bit clingy when he started back to nursery after his first half-term break; he has a few friends there and seems to be getting on well with his daily activities, but he wanted me to stay because he ‘liked me’. However, that was normal enough for the first time back from hols, and a couple of days later he was happily seeing me off out the door again.

I feel as though I’ve slightly petered out, so I will bid you adieu for now, but in short, given the choice between an emotional little mammal that wobbles up and down on an axis of changing emotions or an unchanging manikin, my prevaricating nature would boil off in an instant. No child of mine is going to be shy of expressing their emotions: not unless they really haven’t been paying attention.

So, it’s on with my patented ‘listening ears’ and back to the rodeo.

Ciao for niao!

*I normally feel a little allergic about the m-word and the condescending marketing shorthand it represents, but I try and deal with this by remembering how undervalued mums generally are and why I should probably not get too stressed about it.** There’s nothing worse than men moaning about how underappreciated they are when they expect medals for what women have been doing, with no credit at all, since the Forever.
**Also, not a big fan of bandying the phrase ‘butt-hurt’ around, but that’s another soapbox.

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