Being mindful with kids is not always easy.
Sometimes we are emotionally triggered by our children and sometimes we’re just so worn down, the only option left seems to be to SHOUT.
But when my little lady screamed I was a fart and a front bottom recently, a strange thing happened.
I hugged her.
Being called a fart was nothing new to be honest – it’s been said many a time before, albeit mostly in the slightly more protracted form of ‘you old fart’ by a friend.
But ‘front bottom’.
This was a new one.
And it took even me by surprise.
My little lady has been struggling a bit at school lately and last week after a litany of poo and wee references, it all just got too much for her and she screamed at me with utter abandon that I was a ‘fart and a front bottom’.
Now some people will think this is hysterically funny, whilst others will think it dreadful.
But here’s the thing:
My little lady was so full of confused emotions, she was fit to burst and this was the only way she could find at that particular moment to express it.
My heart broke for her and I gave her a hug.
A great, big massive, it’s ok – i’ve got you and I get it – bear hug.
You see, my daughter is only 5 and friendship groups are being set (and tested) at her school right now.
Some kids are asserting themselves and being a bit bossy.
Some are going the other way (as I did as a child), retreating and being shy.
Some of the boys are moving around in superhero packs wielding their metaphorical spears at any unsuspecting girl who wants to join in and try on a superhero power (rather than stick with a slightly undermining My Little Pony name like Fluttershy).
I mean – which would make you feel more powerful? Rainbow Dash or Iron Man?
Other kids are so busy talking in case their world wobbles, they barely have room to listen to anyone else and keep interrupting.
Some kids are so busy not talking in case their world wobbles it’s hard to get a response from them (me at 5, and 6 and er, keep going for a few more years – around 37 I think.).
I mean – someone should really have a word with Julia Donaldson and see if she’s up for a re-write Lord of the Flies for under 5s. It might help them make a bit more sense of what’s going on.
In a nutshell – finding who she was in this melting pot of 4 and 5 year olds was confusing for my little lady.
So she threw her angst full pelt at the one person who would (fingers crossed!) take it.
I do know, of course, that it’s not ok for my daughter to call me a fart and a front bottom.
But so does she.
Telling her off, shouting at her, getting upset or plonking her on the naughty step are (in my view anyway) missing the point rather. She was already feeling wretched – she didn’t need to feel shamed on top of it.
I know my daughter loves me. And I know under usual circumstances she doesn’t think I’m a fart.
Or indeed a front bottom (I hope!)
But on that particular day, I’m glad she felt able to call me both. (She is probably the only person on earth who would get away with it :))
Because it was her 5 year old way of showing me a BIG red light of emotions.
Wouldn’t it be great if our kids could tell us at 4 and 5:
‘Mother, I think I’m having a bit of trouble processing my complex emotions right now. It’s terribly confusing. Would you mind assisting me. Otherwise I fear I may get so riled up I may call you a fart and a front bottom.’
But they can’t. (If any can I want to meet them!).
So, it’s our job as parents, to look out for the warning signs.
Nothing much more was said, at that point, following her scatological outburst.
Except me telling my daughter that she had some big old emotions going on and they’d got a bit stuck.
Sometimes it can be a bit tricky to know how to express them I said. Cause they feel yucky and it’s a whole lot easier to squash them back down.
Even grown ups have trouble sometimes I said (don’t they just!).
I made her laugh a bit (which is cathartic for children, as it releases some of the emotion) by being silly and trying to pull the yucky emotions out of her and throwing them out the window.
‘They’re still there’ she shouted, laughing.
I strained really hard and fell over backwards as I pulled more yucky feelings out.
She giggled some more and that was that.
Until a day or so later…
…when it all came out in the bath.
So and so didn’t listen, she said, someone else kept butting in, someone was bossy, she didn’t even know if she liked blah blah, plus the boys (in her mind anyway) wouldn’t let her play superheroes.
And on top of all that, she frequently wanted to go for a wee but the teacher said you have to be quick as it’s learning time. (Which translated, meant she felt pressurised and so decided not to go at all, which resulted in sphincter muscles getting clenched like a vice, daily until 3.16!)
I mean – honestly, if I had been 8 months into a new job and all this was going on – I think I might have called someone something a lot worse than a fart.
As adults, I think we often forget what it feels like to be 5 sometimes. We forget to look at things from their perspective.
We expect so, so much from them.
Then, when they need help processing their emotions (and act up as a result) – instead of supporting and helping them, we frequently resort to punishing them.
I read a wonderful book recently where a little boy, around 4 or 5, threw his dinner across the table. His Dad’s initial instinct was to shout at him, but he suddenly noticed the utter anguish in his son’s face, got up and hugged him instead (what a Dad, I’m not sure I’d have done that).
The boy collapsed in his father’s arms and wept and at that moment felt safe enough to express what was really going on.
Which turned out to be an intense fear about losing his home. This fear had mounted over some time from hearing his parents repeatedly talk about financial hardships.
When small kids don’t know how to express or process things, they often lash out (or throw their dinner across the room), out of fear and confusion.
It’s up to you, of course, how open you are to your kids about family issues, but kids are like sponges, so if you talk about adult stuff in their hearing, you need to include them and re-assure them things will be ok.
Assuming they are ‘too young to understand’ is so often not the case.
Do I always get it right? No, no and NO.
But on this occasion I felt I got to the bottom of what was going on with child by being mindful.
By acknowledging her feelings and making her feel ‘just about’ safe enough to let the feelings rise to the top, where she could try and make a bit of sense of them with me, then let them go.
Shortly after all this happened, (following a few rocky mornings of her clinging to me), my daughter waltzed into the classroom, turned round and literally shoved me back out again.
For now, she didn’t need me.
And I felt happy for her.
Being Mindful With Kids
If you want to read more about being mindful with kids (or just find all this a bit too liberal and want to see some hard evidence that this stuff works over more modern or traditional approaches:)!), I can thoroughly recommend these 6 peaceful and mindful parenting books.
Another book I rate highly, Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne almost certainly puts it all an awful lot better than I do…
In the chapter called ‘Soul Fever’, the author says:
Imagine how secure your child will feel knowing that:
- when something is really ‘up’, when they don’t feel right, you will notice and respond
- when their well being is threatened , they will be brought close, be watched, and be cared for
- your love will accommodate, and look beyond, their less-than-best selves
- they are deeply known and instinctively cared for.