My daughter is demanding to know how many of the sleep-overs she’s been invited to in the next 2 weeks that she can go on. Obviously she wants to go to them all. She’s 9 (and 3/4). She still sleeps for 12 hours a night if allowed. Sleep-overs turn her into a shadow of her self; a monsterous, all-attitude-and-temper kind of shadow. I have the wonderful job of being the parent and putting in boundaries (in her words “making all the decisions!”).
There are three further aspects to this ‘conversation’ (argument, fight, battle, war) to consider:
1. Daughter has just finished football practice (after a day of school) and is tired, hungry and sweaty. Ok, so the sweaty isn’t so relevant but it adds to the mental picture right?
2. I’ve just got home from work, day 4 of 5 in the week. I’m tired and hungry.
3. I’ve just begun training as a Thrive practioner. Thrive looks at gaps or disturbances in children’s emotional development,the effects on the brain, how this presents and strategies to support healing.
This means that I have spent the last 2 days doing nothing but a) learning about a therapeutic, calm, soothing way to being with children and b) silently worrying about all the ‘disturbances’ I’ve created in my children’s development with shoddy parenting.
So, I’ll set the scene a little more. I’ve tried to steer round having the sleepover conversation (knowing that a rest and a meal would be good first). Daughter has continued to ask. Daughter is picking up that I’m clearly not going to say yes to it all. Cue a quick and dramatic meltdown.
Tears, snot and screaming (you can now imagine the sweat too). She storms up the stairs “why can’t you just let me do the sleepovers?!”. Attempts to slam door. It doesn’t slam as its been getting stuck on the carpet under the weight of her dressing gown collection for some time. “It’s so unfair!” “You never let me”. Cue uncontrollable (but not really) wailing just in case we didn’t realise that it’s THAT bad.
I look at my husband and sigh. I offer to tackle this one. I stomp up stairs thinking “I just want a cup of tea” and “oh please shut up”.
I enter her room. I ask if she’d like to talk about it. She nods. She’s laying across the floor head in her arms. I can feel every fiber in my body wanting to loudly and scathingly point out that she’s not proving herself to be ready for sleep-overs with this behaviour. I want to patronisingly point out that she’s in no fit state to have this conversation as she’s obviously tired and hungry. But I think about the Thrive training. I think about how I can’t apply all this great knowledge to the children at work and then shout at my own.
I sit down next to her and try to keep my bubbling crossness at bay. She’s turning round and screaming in my face “you grown ups make all the decisions and it’s sooooooo UNFAIR!”. Against all my instincts (throwing her out the window?) I start to stroke her back, begrudgingly at first. I start to ‘soothe’ her and ‘atune’ to her by saying ” Yes. I know it feels really unfair doesn’t it. Oh yes, that’s making you feel cross isn’t it. It is hard isn’t it”. The shouting stops, she appears to be allowing me to be close to her, possibly, dare I say, enjoying it. I start to think that this is brilliant. By stroking her I’m feeling soothed (I’m learning the importance of touch in my training) and reckon my feel good chemicals are being released, let alone hers.
Then she lifts her head, her wet and reddened eyes staring at me and she shouts “well why aren’t we flipping talking about it then?!”.
I tried. Still have a lot to learn, obviously.
Better luck next time?