It was a Tuesday evening, I had just sat down on the couch after tucking my daughter into bed – books were read, face was painted and snuggles were had – when I heard her soft yet urgent voice, “Mama!?”
I went upstairs and opened the door quickly, asking her what she needed; she said she was scared of monsters. I briefly comforted her before laying out, both logically and rationally, all the evidence and reasons as to why monsters don’t exist.
“Don’t worry, Shae. I promise there’s nothing to be scared of.”
*Ok, are we good? Can I go back downstairs now?*
She wasn’t good, she was still scared.
Because usually, more often than not, our fears, anxieties and worries become fears, anxieties and worries because they are irrational. We know this. It doesn’t help to point it out. And it certainly doesn’t help a kid.
When we’re scared and we’re experiencing big, overwhelming feelings, all we want is for someone to listen and validate our experience – simple as that. So that’s what I did. I just let her talk and yes, it started with monsters, but it wasn’t long before it morphed into the fire and lockdown drills they do at school or something potentially bad happening to our cats.
It took a lot to restrain myself because I just wanted to fix or solve it for her, but instead I just listened, and validated her. I told her that I used have some of those same thoughts and fears. And although I didn’t say much and a part of me really didn’t feel like I was being helpful, I actually was, because she got to spit out and voice all the shit that was floating around in her, all the shit that was just looking for that little, teeny, tiny exit to get out.
And as a parent, it’s not easy, and it certainly doesn’t happen like this every time – sometimes we miss the opportunity. But if we’re actively trying to hear ourselves more often and give ourselves that extra ear and care. If we’re trying to slow down long enough and breathe into our own fears, anxieties and worries in order to provide a little, teeny, tiny exit for ourselves, then it becomes easier and more natural for us to be able to give the same to our kids.
So maybe monsters do exist. Maybe it’s when our fears, anxieties and worries aren’t spoken or voiced because someone is too busy trying to fix them. Maybe it’s when we default to keeping things stuck inside because we’re not sure someone will understand. Maybe it’s when we aren’t met with validation or a sense of similarity. Maybe it’s when we pretend that everything is ok, even when it’s not. Or maybe it’s when we start to think that it’s silly or immature of us to be scared or fearful of these clearly irrational things, when in fact it’s actually silly or naïve of us to not recognize and understand all of the damn good reasons we have as to why we are.