Yesterday was a bad day. The type of day that leaves you feeling deflated; the type of day that makes you feel like a failure as a parent; a day filled with childhood defiance and a lot of shouting. It was definitely not the picture-perfect family day, filled with happy childhood memories, I had envisioned for the first day of my son’s school holiday and when the day was finally over and I watched my little pre-schooler drift off to sleep, I promised us both that tomorrow would be better.
While I was lying there, gently stroking Bean’s face, murmuring these promises of better days, I thought of how I would like my children to remember their childhood and the role I, as their mom, played in it. How would they remember me? As an angry, frustrated and defeated monster or as a loving and fun safe haven?
5 Things Childhood Memories are Based On
The times they felt safe (or unsafe)
My sister and I often joke about the few times our generally patient dad got angry. He would not shout; instead, he would lift his eyebrows, his eyes a blaze of fury. In these moments, we just ran. He always had a reason to get angry at us of course, but the fear we felt in those moments was real.
Luckily, he was (and still is) a good dad who made us feel a sense of safety more than we ever felt fear.
It is normal for parents to get angry, for that monster to make an appearance, but it is important to ensure that you chase away those scary monsters more often than becoming one yourself. As parents, it is our duty to be a safe haven for our kids after all.
Words of Encouragement vs Criticism
I have written about the power of words so often as it is something that is really close to my heart. Young children have no innate sense of self, no opinion about who they are or what they can or cannot achieve. All they have to base their self-image on (when they do eventually form one), are the words of affirmation or criticism heard from their parents and loved ones.
Before saying something in anger, think of the words you want to use and think of the literal impact these may have.
Similarly, the way you and your spouse talk to each other, will either give your child a sense of love and wholeness or a sense of hurt, negativity and degradation. Use words carefully.
I love family traditions, especially around birthdays, the festive season, Easter or family Sundays. It is these happy and wholesome traditions that spread warmth in any heart and a positive glow in any mind.
Presence vs Presents
This point is summed up perfectly by Anthony Withman: “Too much love never spoils children. Children become spoiled when we substitute presents for presence.” Children thrive on undivided parental attention so give it to them and play (and switch your phone off for a little while).
We all have these days: days when your toddler or pre-schooler is sick and miserable and his tantrums are all the worse because of it; days when your baby has kept you up all night and your sleep deprived body and mind simply need a break. These days are hard and they leave us feeling wrecked with guilt, but we need to forgive ourselves on these odd occasions because we are human after all. And, because, if we try hard enough, these bad days do pass and they inevitably make space for so many good days: days filled with laughter, love and so many hugs and kisses.