ACTING, faking it, painting on that smile and using one’s “please-pass-the-butter” voice even if it feels like the world is ending; sometimes you’re balancing on jagged glass, so tired you’re almost comatose.
As a parent, we all have those days. We might be managing a dozen big issues and dramas, from work and home, while at the same time dealing with a child who wants to talk about why flowers look like flowers or another who can’t decide between the merits of a bunny bedtime story or a pirate adventure.
Keeping calm and carrying on is just one of the many skills parents have to develop over the years, but it’s not always easy.
Talking to a friend the other day who is going through a bad patch in her marriage, the conversation turned to how difficult sometimes it can be to put on the brave face and pretend for the sake of the kids that everything is hunky dory and normal.
It got me wondering how much we should reveal to our kids about our inner stress and how much should we keep to ourselves.
Despite their difficulties, my friend and her husband are determined to keep everything as normal and stress free for the kids as possible.
The problem is kids have an uncanny ability to pick up on vibes, to form their own conclusions about why parents are behaving the way they are and these aren’t always accurate.
For instance, they might well think you are snapping because there is something wrong with them, or that dad is away a lot because he doesn’t have time for them anymore.
These days, particularly as our kids are getting just that bit bigger and more aware of tone and nuance, I try and confide in them much more. If nothing else, this reassures them that the day’s stresses and strains are not about them and also to show them that other things influence the way their parents react and behave, just like things that happen at school and in the playground can affect them.
Of course, you don’t want to take this too far. You want your kids to always feel secure and that somehow you are in control, but it probably doesn’t hurt to let them know you aren’t perfect and that parents do have bad days.
And if everyone is in the know, well, it can be a lot easier for all the family to deal with those bumps – big and small – that crop up as we trundle along through life.