Life is busy. As a parent there is no escaping it. Stay at home parent, working parent, it doesn’t matter, there is ALWAYS something to be done; washing, cooking, school runs, cleaning up, since I became a mum there is a lot less ‘chilling’ time. However busy life may keep me, it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. This morning the sun was shining, post school run the tot and I went for a stroll around town to collect a few last minute items for my daughter’s ‘spa tea party’ (seriously she is turning six… I’m not sure I knew what a spa was until about eighteen). With Spring in the air I was enjoying every moment of our walk.
My two year old was chatting contentedly when she suddenly started shouting, ‘cross!’
‘Why are you cross?’ I enquired- she seemed pretty happy munching on snacks to me!
‘No, Mummy cross!’ She replied
‘I’m not cross sweetie, Mummy is happy!’
‘Happy?’ She looked momentarily confused, ‘ahh happy!!!’
She proceeded to chat about being happy for the remainder of the day and whilst this continued to improve my mood I couldn’t help but dwell on the initial confusion. It occurred to me, that while I DO talk about my feelings, and feel it is important to around small children, I rarely talk about the positive emotions. I generally assume that when I am happy it shows, I am laughing or smiling, it’s when that mood changes that I comment on it.
‘Please stop fighting, I am getting cross.
‘Don’t throw your food, you will make me cross.’
‘I am very cross at you for biting your sister.’
It is no wonder the poor kid assumed I was cross it is the one emotion I talk about most, when I’m sad I cry and happy I laugh. When I am cross I tell her.
Mental health is such an important part of our well being. Many members of my family suffer with mental health issues, from depression to anxiety, which is why I want to be open about emotions with my children. It seems easier as they get older. My eldest can sense if I am unhappy and she asks me what’s wrong, so I tell her. Likewise, she is a very sensitive little girl and we can tell instantly when something is not quite right, and so we talk about it.
With toddlers things are a little more black and white. My toddler, whilst she may pick up on something being wrong, she won’t know to ask me. She won’t quite understand if something is making me anxious, or troubled, or even immensely happy! It seems even when I am praising my children I rarely ever tell them how happy I am.
‘I LOVE the picture you made me, thank you’
‘You make me so proud’
‘I love you both so much’
There is plenty of love it would seem but the happiness goes unmentioned.
For the rest of the day I made it a priority to tell my children how happy they make me. When they were playing in the garden I commented on how happy I am when I hear them laughing together. When they ate all their dinner, ‘I am happy to see such clean plates.’ And at bedtime, ‘Well done for getting straight into your Pjs, that makes me really happy.’
You know what? They both flourished under the notion that their behaviour was making me HAPPY. I didn’t need to tell them that I would get very cross if they were not in bed in 5…4…3… they got into bed themselves, to make me happy! Instead of having to issue warnings of my impending anger, they did what they knew I wanted to be able to receive the praise.
I am starting to wonder if our ability to discuss the negative emotions so freely, without focusing on the positive helps contribute to an allround acceptance of negativity. While making it so easy for my children to talk about anger, am I making it more difficult for them to talk about happiness? I am definitely aware that there needs to be more of a balance, so from now on I will be ‘Happy Mummy’ instead of ‘Cross Mummy’ and we shall see if the positivity continues.