One of the constant dilemmas I face as a single-mum to my 2 year-old bear-cub is how much negative emotion to try to ‘hide’ from him. The other day we found a huge spider in his bedroom and I tried to calmly explain that we needed to take him outside so he could ‘be with his spider friends’. When bear cub questioned why I was putting the spider in a glass and not picking it up with my hands I answered, through gritted teeth and with shaky hands, that I simply didn’t want to accidently squash him! From the look on his face I don’t think bear cub was convinced for a minute. I however, was actually quite proud of myself for managing to get that close to a big spider even if there was a glass between it and me. Dealing with spiders is yet another new territory for me since becoming a single parent.
But there are so many questions here regarding fears. We, as mums, instinctively want to do what is best and right for our little ones. We cannot fight the overwhelming force which leads us to want to protect them from all harm at all costs. On the other hand, most of us recognize how in the long term it does not benefit our children to grow up completely ignorant to some of the harsh realities in life that they inevitably will face. The fact is, bad things do happen in life and it is not always a world of Cbeebies-happiness. But how much should we educate them in the darker side of life and at what age? I constantly change my mind on this one. As a child, I was exposed to the troubles of the adult world too much and too soon, the result being my sister and I were in somewhat of a role-reversal situation with our mum particularly in our teens and we were forced to grow up too quickly. The positives are my sister and I are very strong, independent and calm in a crisis but we do some times wish we’d had a few more years of the care-free existence of a child who only has to worry about what they might not get for Christmas. This experience has made me adamant that my son will not feel burdened with the responsibility of ‘making sure mum is ok’ or feeling guilty at having his own life and certainly that he will not feel that he has to be ‘the man of the house’. Having said that, despite my best efforts, if I’m having a ‘difficult’ day which I feel I am handling internally I’ll often catch my little boy making an extra effort to make me laugh or smile. It saddens me that he can so easily pick up my mood and want to or even feel responsible for turning it around.
My reality is that my little boy does not have his daddy living with him and although we’re trying to make that situation as smooth for him as possible he is beginning to become aware that this is not the case for many of his friends. I’d be doing him a disservice as a parent to not sensitively communicate with him about this in terms he can understand. I think we’d all agree it is not healthy to wrap our children in cotton-wool but I also believe it is good practice to let them know it is ‘ok’ for mummy to not be happy all the time and that sometimes people get sad. More often than not, if it’s explained in an appropriate way they can handle it and move on. After all, as I have discovered, kids are not stupid and know when you’re faking something anyway!
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