A couple of years ago, I decided to take my newborn, 2yo and 4yo to the local major shopping centre… on the bus… without a pram… to go Christmas shopping. (I think in my sleep deprived state I was delirious).
It was hard. Really hard. LOTS of constant redirection, narrating, cajoling them along. But we were doing okay. Until haggard and exhausted we headed to catch the bus home. And just missed it. The 2yo couldn’t hold it together any longer. There was screaming, crying, hitting and all the other usual 2yo-my-feelings-are-too-big-for-me behaviour.
I took him to the side of the walkway, sat on the floor and scooped him into my lap (which also contained a sleeping newborn strapped to my chest). The 4yo sighed and buckled to the floor beside me. The 2yo continued to rage.
Pressing back tears, I took a deep breath and pulled him to me.
You’re so tired.
You have been trying so hard today but you are ready to go home.
You’ve had enough.
And you’re sad you missed the bus. You are sad and you are angry.
It’s going to be okay.
We can take some breaths and wait until you are calm. And we can try again.
We can sit here quietly if you need.
Or we can remember all the fun we’ve had today and what a wonderful job you’ve done.
There is no hurry.
You are going to be okay.”
An older woman who was sitting nearby came over and said to me, “That is amazing! The way you are speaking to him is so lovely. I don’t think I could stay that calm!”
I looked up at her and smiled, tears in my eyes. “I’m not talking to him. I’m talking to me.”
“I’m not talking to him. I’m talking to me.”
And it was true.
In that moment, the ONLY way that I could have the capacity to speak kindly to my child, was by speaking kindly to myself. He needed to hear those things. But so did I.
Parenting is hard. Be kind to yourself.
(And don’t go Christmas shopping with 3 kids on the bus if you don’t have to).