There’s a definite time frame around how much longer I am able to share stories about my children, share their experiences and emotions. I know that. I am, after all, sharing information that is only partly mine to share but, this story is something I have heard not just from my child. I have heard it in one way or another from several of the children I have coached over the last year or so; so I know that I am not the only parent navigating these big emotions and conversations with their kids and it is hard so, I guess I’m sharing so we all feel a bit less a drift in these choppy parenting in a pandemic waters.
Last night I was woken with the touch of a warm hand on my cheek. It was my daughter whispering that she needed me.
This has become far from unusual since last March. From being a clockwork 7-7 she now wakes in the night at least once a fortnight- probably more but around once every 2 weeks she lets me in to her night time woes and wonders.
Last night as we cwtched up in her single bed her worry was;
I feel like I’m carrying a big heavy black stone around in my tummy and I don’t think it will ever go away because I can’t figure out how to make myself less lucky.
I feel bad because I have so much and feel so lucky and so many people have not much at all so how can I make me have less?
Oh wow- What a massive bundle of emotions to carry around.
I held her as she cried and talked her feelings out and then I explained that she doesn’t need to feel guilty for being so fortunate/lucky/privileged AND rather than thinking about how to punish herself or make herself less happy, lucky, we thought about what we can we do to try and level things up. How can we help other people having a difficult time?
- Instead of kicking a hole in your boat what can you do to pull other people onboard?
- Instead of making yourself feel bad or sad or guilty or spoilt, what can you do to shine your light so that inspires and empowers others?
- If you forfeit the activities you enjoy you’ll end up grumpy, resentful and bitter and not in a position to help or support others- no one wins then!
I told her that Mother Teresa once said; If you want to make the world a better place; go home and love your family.
She responded- But you’re not a Christian are you?
Urm…. Yeah- I am I replied (possibly in a bit of a surprised tone!) but I’m more of a ‘have a private conversation with the big man on my own time’ than do the whole organised Church thing – but that’s a long conversation for a different day. She asked me if I prayed and I said yeah- but mainly it’s just me saying thanks for stuff and she said she prays but she feels like she asks for too much stuff- like giving people more food or homes and help and so on. We talked about the fact that that would be a massive job for anyone so instead of asking one person (even if that is God) to do all of that, maybe we could share the load? We also covered the fact that anyone can be a good or a bad person and showing up and singing in a specific building on a regular basis is not a measure of that…what can I say- it was a long night!!
After a lot of talking and weaving our way around several different topics we concluded that YES; it is really important that we are aware how lucky we are and yes, it is really important to be grateful but, as long as you are aware of other peoples situations and circumstances and do what is within your power to help them, pay things forward or improve opportunities for others when ever you can, you don’t need to feel guilty. Grateful yes but guilt for something that’s not your fault or choosing- nah, lets drop that heavy, black stone in the stomach and go and be a pebble of positivity instead.
As I said, I have had this conversation with other kids in different guises- from a brother who felt too guilty to exercise when his brother was poorly…
“It doesn’t feel fair for me to have fun when he can’t”
to another little girl who (when we drilled down) subconsciously felt like she needed a problem or an issue so that she felt less different on the same level as her peers.
“Life isn’t real if you haven’t got a problem”
… Lets think about that for a minute- what sort of narrative is society is creating where children feel that they need to have a problem so they can relate to others….Of course; this isn’t specific to children, as adults so many of us magnify our problems – weight, stress etc in order to fit in with others. How many times have we minimised achievements or played small so we don’t make others feel less? What can we do to shine our own lights and in doing so enable others to do the same?
It’s a big question and certainly not something I have all the answers to but here’s a few suggests B and I came up with:
- Send a letter or card to someone -to tell them you value them
- Call someone to let them know you’re thinking about them
- Learn about other peoples experiences and background so we understand other points of view
- Donate to the foodbank
- Donate some of your pocket money to support kids less fortunate than you
- Donate toys, games, clothes you’ve grown out of
- Get on the cooking rota for a homeless charity
- Be more conscious about wants / needs
- Be aware of what feeds you and makes you feel good- looking after yourself enables you to better support others.
One of the most important things I am taking from this though is that she, and the other families I have worked with, were able to share their feelings and fears. I am so glad that we are beginning to create an environment where is it ok to say you’re sad, hurt, angry, upset ( OR Happy, excited, joyful) it’s ok to sit with those feelings and not feel sure what to do aside from name it own it and in time, hopefully understand it and let go.
These are tricky, tiring, confusing times. Parenting always is! It’s like whack a mole.
Keep talking, keep trying. Be honest, be kind, do your best and be gentle with yourselves.