In this article, I’m going to look at handling the emotions that come with parenting – the bangs, pops, whizzes and sparkles.
“I’m a great dad. My way is the best way because it always works so you should do it too.” Said no-one ever who owned a jot of humility. But why then do I sometimes feel like this? After all I constantly get things wrong. I’ll come back to this later in the article…
As I go through life, there have been unavoidable bumps along the way; the explosions that interrupt the norm and routine of a safe and stable life and make things feel out of control for however long. As a child growing up, I can recall times where things did feel out of control for my family and it’s not been until my twinkles have arrived (and seeing a child’s life through an adults eyes) that I have felt the impact of those times on my own well-being.
So knowing how my own childhood has had the power to affect my adult life, and having a greater insight into how this could have happened, why then do I land up making the same mistakes as those who have gone before me? The arguments between adults that happen in front of the children; the arguments that happen too loudly after the kids have gone to bed… these can all have a long lasting impact on their young minds and have the potential to corrupt the innocence of childhood beyond comprehension.
For a three year old, it really shouldn’t get more difficult than this…
In fact, as I’m sitting here writing this article, the girls are busily playing a game (beautifully) together where they have to make outfits for daddy bear, mummy bear and baby bear out of different wooden pieces. The discussion between them so far has centred around whether baby bear can wear his underwater snorkel outfit while mummy bear is wearing her pyjamas. This, really, is as hard as life should get for a three and a half year old. They shouldn’t have to shoulder to burden of our adult woes.
But at the same time, they can’t be wrapped up in cotton wool and shielded from all of the ills that the world has on offer. And let’s face it, there’s enough negativity and sadness out there to last lifetimes. From time to time, though, there are bad, sad and unavoidable events that… well, can’t be avoided and our children have to go through them whether you like it or not. If you’ve seen a couple of MuMum’s more recent Monday Musing vlogs, you’ll know that we’ve had a family bereavement in the last month; someone who was very dear to us and the girls and had a big influence on their lives.
MuMum and I debated whether, how much and what we should tell our twinkles about the situation. In the end, we decided that the girls should know the truth because, after all, they were going to notice that the family wasn’t as complete as it once was. In explaining the death to them, we gave them something tangible to attach their sadness to; whenever they feel sad about it, they now give the fluffy toy donkeys a big squeeze. It’s really helped them to deal with their emotions and be especially sensitive to MuMum’s emotions as she deals with her own grief.
Through this particular time, I’ve found that my kids are more adept and emotionally capable than I would have given them credit for. For instance, when MuMum has become upset as her grieving comes to the surface the girls will go running to her to offer a squeeze of their donkey. Actually, this has partly not surprised me but at the same time it’s taken me aback because it means that they are susceptible to, and taking on board, the other negative things that perhaps aren’t explained to them sufficiently, if at all. And isn’t that how the damage can be caused?
Of course, there are many more good things that happen and as a family we rejoice in these things together; the day trips, birthday parties or firework displays. I know these moments stick in the minds of the twinkles just as much as the bad; of that I’m convinced. I just hope that the good is the dominating memory for them and that the bad doesn’t scar them beyond forgiveness or repair.
I said at the beginning of this post that I sometimes feel as though my way is the best way and that you should try it too. Not always, but sometimes. There are some great things in my life that work and they can work for everyone so long as they use them in the right way, according to their own circumstances. In a recent discussion online, some dads were bravely sharing their experiences of being dad and how sometimes the things they do to help mum go unnoticed or unacknowledged by their partner or wife. Now, I’m a big believer in Love Languages (Google it if you’ve not come across them before) because it revolutionised my marriage before we even got married. Why then would I hold onto this knowledge if it could help another couple out? So I shared it with the group and I hope it was of some benefit to at least one or two people who read my post. But on the other hand, just because the way we toilet trained our girls worked for us, doesn’t mean that it would work for another set of twins, so I might not be so quick to tell others about it.
In life, there are plenty of bangs, pops, whizzes and sparkles. They’re literal as well as metaphorical, happy as well as harmful. It’s my job as daddy to avoid the avoidable and help to give them the tools to try to deal with the unavoidable. The great thing about it is that sometimes I land up teaching myself how to deal with things at the same time. And that’s OK too.