As Flea gets older, the lessons I want to teach her change.
Long gone are the days of carrying her over puddles so her feet don’t get soggy, or letting her stand on my knee so she can reach the counter top in the kitchen.
Parenting a ten-year-old is more like being a mixture of a social organiser, taxi driver and personal shopper. But I confess, I miss the days when her problems could be solved with a kiss and a quick, “Hey look at that squirrel!”
This year, Flea has struggled with certain relationships. She has a combination of very lovely personality traits that mean she’s easily wrong-footed by the unexpected; perplexed when people don’t behave in the way she is used to. It’s left her feeling anxious and confused.
Honestly? It breaks my heart to see her hurt by something I can’t fix; struggling to cope with something – perhaps because I failed to give her the emotional tools she needs to process these new challenges?
In rational moments I suspect it’s just growing up, maybe. Sooner or later, we all realise that people are flawed and thoughtless, and often self-absorbed – but we love them anyway because hell, nobody’s perfect and most of us are pretty good eggs, underneath it all.
But still, I’m trying to help Flea to navigate her way through these new waters.
In particular, we’ve talked a lot about how people don’t behave perfectly and while we forgive them and love them regardless, it’s okay to mind. It’s okay to mind when someone is mean, or distant, or forgetful, or careless. That even if you don’t want to say it out loud, it’s good to have a little voice in your head that says, “Hey! That wasn’t okay, and I didn’t deserve that.”
Of course, what’s interesting is that for all the times I tell Flea about the importance of boundaries and expecting people to respect you, what I DO is probably a thousand times more compelling than what I SAY.
Like many women, I suspect, my instinct is often to smooth over disagreements. To take the high road when someone treats me unfairly, or takes advantage, or is a total dick in some way or other. I’ve a habit of preserving relationships long after they’ve stopped bringing me much in the way of comfort or happiness.
This isn’t (just) because I’m a super-nice person, obviously.
It’s also because it’s generally just easier to keep schtum and let unpleasantness pass. Far better to say nothing than to jump in and say the wrong thing – which I have a spectacular talent for, by the way. I have a hatred of confrontation, and I’m blessed with a ridiculously bad memory that means I’ve usually forgotten what I’m pissed off about long before I see the offending person again.
But Flea sees all of that. And I suspect I need to be a better role model for her.
I need to be better at removing toxic people from my life, and ensuring that our home and family remains a safe space where people are nice to each other, and support one another. And maybe I can’t solve all Flea’s problems, but hopefully I can start to show her that they are problems that CAN be fixed and she can do that for herself.
I’d love to hear your tips on this – have you ever experienced something similar with your children?