It wasn’t your typical weekend day with a toddler. My daughter was moody (a bit more than usual) and nothing we agreed on was happening. Not even the things she wanted to do. She was just irritable and my frustration showed. After I tried to convince her to pick up some food from the floor for the 10th time and she didn’t, I left her room heading to the kitchen, that’s when it happened.
A family member was at the same time coming through the front door. The air pressure changed and suddenly the room of my daughter’s room slammed shut. I had already walked out and took a few steps but she thought somehow I slammed it. It wasn’t even a loud bang but a sudden movement. She freaked out. Crying, screaming and panicking. I panicked, too, thinking she had hurt herself. I went back and calmed her down, which luckily didn’t take long. The lights were also off, so the room got dark when the door was shut. It was a reminder of how vulnerable our children could be.
I remembered and joked with her afterwards, about how many times she shut that door in my face herself! I had never slammed doors in her face or even pretended to leave and shut the door. I was a bit puzzled to start with.
Kids can usually get overwhelmed by their own emotions. When they are happy, they are excited, delighted and euphoric. When angry, they want to destroy everything. How do they talk about emotions at first? How about: “best day ever” or “I’m never going to school again”. I know it sounds familiar.
Not all kids are the same. Some are born with genes that gives them a calmer temperament. Some are more sensitive, more emotional, and they might pick on things other kids won’t even notice. Some children would notice your tone of voice, an eye roll, a sigh of frustration, or a look of disapproval. They take it at face value.
Why Infants Love Peekaboo
As babies, they cry when they can’t see their parents. After a few months, they start to understand mom or dad is still around even if they can’t see them. That’s why they start to enjoy peekaboo. Mom covers her face “oh did she disappear?” But then, a happy surprise, she is back! They find it funny! Psychologist Jean Piaget called this “object permanence”.
Photo by Christian Bowen on Unsplash
As they grow up, they don’t find it that interesting anymore. They may want to play hide and seek instead!
Here is the thing. When a child sees their parent leave, they probably know the parent is coming back. But, this depends on many things. The child’s age, the relationship with the parent, and the way they felt at the time. My nephew who once thought her dad was never coming home, because he was late at work! When my friend had his second baby, his older daughter immediately asked “do you still love me?” Remember the first part about strong emotions? That’s the best way I can explain it. Now, imagine this is happening with signs of disapproval or rejection. Does slamming the door mean she is being rejected? or punished?
Good Enough Parenting
The concept of the “good enough mother” has been widely discussed, crticized or misunderstood and generalized. Some people now think it is vague and misused, while others think we are all good enough. The fact is that we, and our kids are all humans. Every parent will face the highs and lows of emotions, the tantrums, as well as their own emotions and baggage.
Image by iStockPhoto.com
The way I understand “good enough” is that we have to meet our children’s needs. We should strive to do this as much as possible. At the same time, provide safety and security for them to be able to go and explore the world knowing we’ve always got their backs. If we “fail” to meet their needs, we rectify it, we apologize. It is the exception, and mustn’t happen when it comes to the basic essential needs. If we are too perfect, we deny them the chance of exploring their own skills and independence. “Fine balance” is an understatement sometimes. In the end, and as long as we are trying, we shouldn’t feel guilty for our occasional mistakes. The consistency of providing a safe base for our children is key.
So why did my daughter freak out, even though she wouln’t normally care about a closed door? She was already in a vulnerable emotional state. My feeling is that she felt scared and rejected. She said later that she felt I was gonna leave her alone, and felt it was a silly idea.
Some of you are probably laughing at me (fine), some might be trying to psycho-analyze this story (please don’t). If you have a similar story or reflection to share, please feel free to do so in the comments.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
You may also like these posts on The Good Men Project:
|White Fragility: Talking to White People About Racism||Escape the “Act Like a Man” Box||The Lack of Gentle Platonic Touch in Men’s Lives is a Killer||What We Talk About When We Talk About Men|
Photo credit: engin akyurt on Unsplash