It’s become a bit of a family tradition that we go away for a long weekend for my birthday and for my husband’s birthday. Nothing too complicated. A caravan and a swimming pool and the kids are over the moon.
We are just back from my birthday weekend. We all had a great time but for me there was also a tough reminder about empathy for my children.
Here’s the thing – I wanted to cycle to where we were staying. I really really wanted to cycle there. It wan’t too far. The weather forecast was fantastic. The others could drive and I’d meet them there.
It wasn’t to be.
I went in the car.
The bike stayed at home.
I was disappointed. I was actually more disappointed than I have been about anything in ages. (I think the last time I felt this disappointed was when I realized that breast feeding just wasn’t working out.) I cried. I struggled to let it go. Every time I saw a bike on the road it set me off again. Every time I thought about how perfect the weather was it set me off again.
In the absence of any other form of solitude and exercise over the weekend, I took to walking. This gave me the space I needed to think this one through.
What a realisation I came to.
I realised that this is how my 4 year old feels.
When he sees something he really wants and I tell him he can’t have it, this is exactly how he feels.
I know that the toy is cheap rubbish that will fall apart before we get home. I know that it’s going dark and the dinner needs cooked so we can’t go to the playpark right now.
But all my 4 year old knows is that he really really wanted it and he’s disappointed. It doesn’t actually matter how absurd what he wanted was. He’s disappointed. He can’t help feeling disappointed any more than I could.
I try my hardest to be a patient parent, but I really find it hard to deal with the crying and whining that 4 year olds can produce when they really want something ridiculous. My patience really wears thin when I think we’ve moved on and he starts all over again, sometimes hours later.
As a parent, I often deal with my 4 year old’s disappointment in the following ways:
- Distract him
- Explain (again) why the answer is no
- Get cross and tell him to stop whining
When I felt disappointed, would any of these approaches have helped me?
- Distraction – the disappointment would still be there. It just kept coming back no matter how much I disliked it.
- Explaining – I already knew all the reasons why. They were the reasons I felt disappointed in the first place.
- Anger – That would just make me angry as well as disappointed.
Oh no, I’m a horrible parent. Bring on the mummy guilt.
It took a fair bit of walking to work out what could of helped me when I felt like this. Nothing could make me feel less disappointed. I think that all I really needed was for someone who loved me to tell me that they understood and to give me a big hug. I would still feel disappointed but I would also feel loved and acknowledged.
So, I need to rethink how I deal with my children when they feel disappointed.
They feel how they feel and it doesn’t matter if it seems ridiculous to me, it’s serious to them.
If only they didn’t feel that way quite so often because I still really really find whining hard to deal with.
But if I can just remember how I felt this weekend, then maybe failing to cycle this once, might make me a better mummy.