Me: I’m a bit stressed today
R: But why?
Things at work
What should I do?
I think you should be patient
You think so?
Yeah! And you should get some sleep. When you wake up you’ll be better.
A recent article I read spoke of parents who treat their children as friends and how much of a disservice they were doing, by not letting the kids be kids. By that standard, I must be a toxic parent! In my defense, it is not me pouring my troubles before my child but she wants to know. When I lie down next to her at night and say, “Tell me about your day… what did you do at the daycare“, she asks me to tell her about my day at the office. Sometimes.
The first time she asked me to tell her about my work, I asked her what she wanted to know. She wanted names of people I work with. Then she wanted to know who I liked working with and who the “bad people” were. She was interested in why they were bad. She asked me what I did at work all day. Did I sit at the computer like Peppa Pig’s mum?
Today, I told her I was stressed. Ok, she didn’t ask me and it was not at bed time but I told her just after dinner. I could not think of much else to talk about. I was too wired up. Often I find that I get a more appropriate response from her than her dad, in these situations. I guess it has something to do with how simple her life is compared to the five-million-thoughts-a-minute running through an adult brain. She hears the problem and gives me the obvious solution. Why did I not see that? The truth is, I did but I didn’t. I saw it but I looked past it because I was too busy stressing or wallowing or maybe I’d already moved on to the next issue coming at me.
Toxic or not, it is amazing to see the world through a little toddler’s eyes. I am not expecting her to grow up quickly or be my best friend but why shouldn’t I get down and embrace the simplicity of her view? Some times we just need to hear from someone else what we already know. Why couldn’t that someone be my child? It makes her feel empowered, because she helped mum with something. Between hearing the statement and admiring my child’s ability to address my issue while simultaneously making sure her Lego tower doesn’t topple, I’ve already calmed down quite a bit. The stress is sliding off me real quick because I am now overwhelmed with pride at how beautifully she grasped the concept of stress and de-stress. If she can tell me this, maybe… hopefully… she will remember it when she is distressed.
I’ve seen her get frustrated in the mornings when she can’t get her clothes on or after dinner when her narrow Lego tower keeps falling over. She has come a long way from screaming and crying, to trying again once she has gotten the poison out of her system. The screaming now is not a ear-splitting where-are-my-parents yell but instead a long grunt of exasperation to expel the negative feelings. I can see her self-regulating her emotions and boy, am I a proud parent!
By the time she went to bed, I was ready to cross some chores off my list. I was ready to channel my highly strung nerves into something more creative. I certainly do not feel like a toxic parent. I do not believe my daughter went to bed thinking about my stress or patting herself on the back for helping me relax. I doubt she made as big a deal of it in her mind as some of these parenting articles claim. As far as I could see, she went to bed, as always, arguing with her dad about how many stories he had to tell her, which version of Rapunzel’s tale she wanted to hear and whether mum would join her in bed after she has gone to sleep.
Do experts overthink these situations? Are they right, whoever they are that make up these studies? Should parents take what they read with a pinch of salt?