As anyone who has felt the stamped foot of their petulant inner child can attest, being a grown-up is more a fluid state than a definitive destination.
The more unresolved issues we keep inside from our childhood (and I’m not necessarily talking ‘big’ issues, things we deem insignificant can still push those buttons, raise those hackles or make those unexpected tears flow), the more likely our inner child will raise their head, just when we need to be a grown up the most.
My inner child has been popping up in all the wrong places this week in response to my daughter starting secondary school. It’s no wonder really, when high school is a breeding ground for insecurities we can take forward to adulthood. Watching her deal with her own fears and worries has sent my mental shudders and inwards cringes into over-drive, as it catapults me back to my own experiences of school.
Thankfully, my grown up has also been present, much more than in previous times of worry.
I’m waking a little in the night but I am getting back to sleep. There have been some weird dreams about prisons and I have a jagged rock that seems to have settled between my chest and my stomach, but on the whole I am functioning normally and without a spiral of fear thoughts generated by my constant – but thankfully much quieter – negativity companion, Brian, and his catastrophising side-kick, Overthinking.
Almost a year ago, in my post Information Overload I wrote, ‘when the shit hits the fan, I hit the internet.’ This was in reference to my often single-minded efforts to find out how everyone else would respond to a situation in order to work out how I should respond. So far, I have resisted the lure of google to find out how I should behave. Instead, I’ve looked through my old journals to remind myself how I’ve grown these past couple of years. I’ve re-listened to some old podcasts that I find inspiring and comforting, but most of all I’ve been present and accepting of my feelings and of my child in front of me, without rushing headlong into fixing mode.
Am I making mistakes? Probably. Am I dealing with this perfectly? Hell, no! But I am learning a lot, about myself and my daughter, and I’m doing a good enough job along the way, that will be good enough.
Quicker than I would previously have thought possible, I have accepted that much of what my daughter is experiencing at school is beyond my control. I cannot change this for her right now. I can offer her comfort and support, stay in communication with the school and offer a listening ear and love in spades, but I accept that these are legitimate feelings she is having to a very big change in her life.
I can also accept the anxiety that I feel, which is a normal part of being a parent, but I don’t have to let my anxious thoughts consume me. I can acknowledge them and allow them to be present, whilst accepting that they will pass.
It’s this which I am trying to model and convey to my daughter: that feeling the way she does right now is a perfectly normal response to such a big transition, not a character flaw (which is, until recently, how I thought of this tendency to worry within myself…hello inner child, take a seat and I’ll make you some hot chocolate, it might not feel like it right now but we’re going to be fine). I’m not pushing her to get over it, or telling her she shouldn’t be feeling this way. I’m not even going to tell her there’s nothing to worry about: clearly for her, there is. I’ve let her know that I can see she’s having a tough time, that it is a tough time and that she’s not alone in feeling like this. I’ve given her lots of hugs along with a few breathing exercises, but I have to accept that as much as I might want to, I can’t fix this for her. Either she’ll settle into the school and this will all be a distant memory soon, or she won’t, and at that point we can start to consider alternative options. Either way, getting myself bent out of shape about it and spending every last second of the day googling ways to make things better for her isn’t what she needs right now. What she needs is a parent that trusts her, accepts her and loves her. She needs a parent who trusts herself, and I think I’m finally in a position to give that to her.
But I still need a little bit of therapy in the process: so here I am, undertaking my writing therapy. A brain dump onto a blank page to work through all the knotty feelings that seeing my child in distress brings up for me, with the added comfort of knowing that in writing this blog, someone out there might read this at a time when they need to hear they’re not alone.
Solomon’s Paradox states that we are much better at giving advice than taking it. I will admit that even now my fingers are itching to hit that google search engine and find out how to make things right for my daughter, and subsequently right for me. More than anything I wish I could fix things for her, but right now it’s more important for her to see that I trust her to work through this. I trust her when she tells me she’s not happy with her situation right now. I trust that her feelings are big and that they’re real, not contrived, exaggerated, made up or in need of being swept away, but I also trust that they will pass.
It’s an important part of the process to trust myself to work through this too. There’s a part of me that wants to take that hard, angular rock that seems to have settled itself somewhere between my chest and my stomach and smash it to pieces, but I have to trust that it will dissolve in its own time, with a healthy dose of self-compassion, meditation and my faithful friend, writing.
If you’re the parent of a child who is struggling with the transition to school and you’ve stumbled across this blog looking for answers then all I can say is this: you know your child better than anyone. By all means seek the support and guidance you need, but when you’re feeling bamboozled, remember, there’s a you inside that knows shit without having to be told: trust yourself and trust your child.
I’m going to be taking a break from the personal growth blogging for a while. Going on this journey with you has been an incredible, humbling and somewhat uncomfortable experience, (as growth always is), but it’s time to focus on the reason I started this blog in the first place: creative writing.
I’m going to be focusing more on my rhymes and flash fiction, perhaps with the odd bit of ‘aha’ observations thrown in for good measure along the way.
Keep those comments coming. Hearing your reflections peels back another layer of the onion, and I’m a sucker for those tears.
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