I’ve always tried to encourage Max to be in touch with his emotions, and never to tell him that he ‘shouldn’t’ feel a certain way. Instead we try to work on how to deal with those feelings and manage them. I don’t think it’s helpful to bury your feelings, and I want him to be able to acknowledge them, and understand why he’s feeling that way, and know that he can take steps to manage it if it’s not an emotion that he wants to feel. I think it’s fair to say that he’s a child who does feel emotions very strongly – both positive ones and more negative ones. Just as he’ll embrace things with a level of enthusiasm that never fails to make me smile, so often his anger can be equally forceful. But every now and again I see glimpses of an emotional maturity that makes me so proud of the little boy that he’s becoming, and this week one particular moment stood out for me.
We’d headed over to meet my Mum and my sister at my Mum’s house, and from there we’d said we’d head into town. We had to go in separate cars, so Max, Ben and I went in our car, and my sister and my Mum went in a different one, and we said that we’d meet at the car park. In hindsight, we probably should have made arrangements a bit more specific, because when we got there we couldn’t find them. It was one of those situations that makes you wonder what we used to do years ago before we all had mobile phones – I tried calling but there was no answer, so we traipsed across the car park in the rain to the Parent and Child spaces where I thought they’d be. Sure enough, there was her car, but no sign of them. So we walked around to the lift, only to find it was out of order. Cue dragging Max and pushing the pushchair up the ramp towards the next lift. It was at that point that I managed to get hold of my sister, only to discover that they were in the department store on the other side of the car park, exactly where we’d parked in the first place.
As we started walking across the car park, now in the pouring rain, I felt my patience disappear and I felt like giving up on the whole thing. The whole day seemed to be destined to fail; after a rough night with Ben, we’d started the day off at 5am, and then spent over an hour waiting in the doctor’s surgery for our appointment. This was the last straw for me, and I said to Max that we were giving up, that we’d get back in the car and head off somewhere on our own to find lunch.
And then something happened that surprised me.
Max grasped my hand, looked up at me, and said “No worry Mummy, we find them… we give it one last try, we can do it!”
And just like that, I filled up with pride and admiration for my brilliant little boy. A little boy who not only keeps going in the face of adversity, but can encourage other people to keep going with him. I was so impressed that he read my feelings well enough to understand how I felt, and knew what to say to give me the kick up the bottom that I needed at that moment. As we walked off together, hand in hand, I was struck by how emotionally mature his response was, and how childish my own had been.
So often we think we’re teaching our children, and yet so often they have just as much to teach us too.