By Sofie Thomson
Sometimes I think we adults have incredibly strange ways in which we communicate with our children: from dismissing their feelings by telling them something is OK, when to them it clearly isn’t, to hushing their cries and attempting to distract them rather than comforting them and listening to them.
As a parent I try to put myself in my children’s shoes. I try to remember what it feels like to be so little with emotions so big. I imagine how I would respond to being ignored, hushed and distracted rather than listened to or even comforted – after all, my children are humans in small packages, not robots with no emotional range.
It’s funny though – even though I feel so strongly about listening to children I also find myself engaging in the practices I don’t agree with. Patterns are so deeply rooted and so hard to break. It’s like a seed was planted and it’s impossible to halt its growth but that isn’t going to stop me from trying!
From infancy, I lovingly hushed my babies when they cried. I tried to imitate the white noise they would have found comforting in my womb, but when is it time to exchange the hush for listening? At one or five? When they are having big feelings or when they are in pain? Do we hush then when they try to talk to us instead of trying to understand their cries?
The other day my children had an argument – a daily and truly exhausting occurrence that leaves me feeling like pulling my hair out of my head at the moment.
I was sitting working when it all came to a head and a loud thump was heard followed by the painful scream of a four-year-old. I ran to my son and I picked him up in my arms, I held him tight and swayed from side to side. I gently hushed as I’ve always done. My son kept trying to talk but realistically a kid in pain who feels unfairly treated by his seven-year-old sister, 30 min before bedtime, make little sense and it sounded a bit like “aaaaghhjHjhhHhhVgTfNNBBjnllsnGggggccvn mummnnnmnnmmmy iiiiiiiiikiaaaaaaaaalallll.” So I hushed.
Until my son had stopped crying I continued to hush, but by then he looked at me in annoyance and said “Why are you not listening to me MUMMY?” And although I had no clue what the kid was trying to tell me, I hadn’t really made an effort to let him know that.