I’ve had this title for a post in the draft folder for months, and just when I thought I might delete it and write something else this article popped up in The Guardian.
This post will be delayed a little bit as I’m currently sitting downstairs at LGI waiting for a delivery bed and midwife to become available so Dr L can maybe move on to the next stage of delivery. It’s the wee hours of a Sunday morning*; there is a lot of aircon/refrigeration rattle, the occasional cheery/eerie tune from a kids’ Noddy car ride, and a few fish floating about. Not much else is going on and the maternity ward is closed to gawping hangers-on like myself so the mums (including Dr L, thankfully) can get some precious sleep. I should probably go home and wait, but I want to be as available as possible – and I’m too tight to spring for another taxi home and back.
J-Dawg’s grandpa is at our house, minding the little fella, who has been brilliant since the waters broke an hour ago: he helped carry his Mum’s things to the hospital (a bag of maternity pads, but still helpful), went to his friend’s house in the middle of night with no complaints and went back to sleep there before having a fun day with them while Mummy and Daddy were here, then gave me a lovely smile and cuddle when I put him to bed a few hours ago. Thank all that’s good in the world for our amazing local friends too, who didn’t pour boiling oil over the portcullis when I knocked on their door at 2am but instead took J-Burger up into their daily business and looked after him all day too. Thank all that’s hairy for Grandpa too, who had to put up with my inept attempts at making sure he was settled before I went to bed for a couple of hours.
But all this is by the by, just over there next to the other by, next to the cupboard. (Sorry, sleep deprivation can lead to dodgy jokes.) Suffice to say, this is a totes emosh situation: I’ve already despaired teary emails to both my kids (to read in the future, assuming Skynet doesn’t bin them first), telling them how proud I am of them. I’m wracked with morbid fantasies about what might go wrong, which I’m keeping to myself, of course, because no one wants to be *that* passenger on the plane. And I’m excitedly terrified about (potentially) meeting my pink, screaming little daffodil in the next 24 hours. Therefore, this post about not hiding ‘negative’ emotions from your kids is clanging great Notre Dame bells for me.
Narcisstically banging on about how I’m feeling is one of my tropes: no question. It feels warm and fuzzy inside to have it validated by academia. J-Boy has definitely picked up the ability to describe how he’s feeling and even begin to put it into some kind of context, and I’m sure that is related to witnessing a wide range of emotions at home.
Making predictions about how parental behaviours can psychologically damage their offspring is like shooting babies with candy in a barrel; they’re ancient vellum manuscripts that deteriorate with every kid-gloved turn of the page, but they have to be touched. They’re vinyls that are worn down with every successive spin, but they have to be played. Just as everything we eat can be bad for us one way or another, everything we do with or show our kids can damage them. We funk them up; we don’t mean to, but it’s impossible to choose one path without allowing another one to fall away. In short, parental mistakes are easy, easy news, especially for middle-class Guardian-reading parents who are as eager to turn their parenting anxieties on themselves as to turn the Eye of Sauron on potential paedophiles in their neighbourhoods. Anxiety sells.
All those rambling objections aside, it makes sense to me not to hide feelings of sadness and anger from children. I’m not saying we should rage at kids and just expect them somehow to magically deal with it, but tell them why we’re upset (after an appropriate cooling down period if tempers are hot) and suggest how we might help ourselves to manage it. A kid with a handle on how to handle their feelings will be a well-equipped little human. I worry hugely when I’m sad that J-Bob is a little boat thrown around in a perfect storm of his Daddy’s emotional tumult, but he seems a pretty happy (if often frustrated by the indignities of being three) little lad. I hope too that if his little sister arrives OK, she will talk about feelings with him, that they can hold hands out on the sometimes dark, choppy waters of their own emotional lives. That’s the plan.
So, in summary, I hope they feel able to cope with all the colours of the emotional rainbow, the peppery reds and melancholy indigos along with the sunny yellows and contented greens. And the pleasurable pink, though I don’t really understand how that colour sneaks into the song.
Back to some attempted sleep. Big violet love to all. Xx
* Oh, yeah. I’m finally getting to taste some of that weekend NHS everyone has been talking about.