It’s a loooong time ago that I started kindy, so long that I cant even face working out what year it was. Somewhere in the mid 70s I’m guessing. Around 40 years ago, so I cant profess to remember the whole experience, but I do remember snippets clearly and have an overall feel for how it went.
We went to school. Full stop. No clinging, no crying, no begging Mummy not to leave. We were dropped off and went inside and got on with it. I don’t remember it even occurring to me to cling or cry even when I was scared or uncertain. Granted I had two sisters there, but the very last thing they were going to do was look after me. I barely got a grunt out of them until we all got home after school.
In fact, I don’t actually remember being dropped off at school. In Sydney we caught the bus. When we moved to Perth, I was 8 and we rode our bikes to school.
I know, I know, I’m doing the “in my day” thing. Ugh. Sorry. But it’s relevant.
Tippi has always been a nervous, shy kid. She’s always stayed close to me, she’s not the kid that gets lost in the shopping mall, she’s not a risk taker. Which has served me well over time as kids who wander are harder work, but it means she misses out on experiences. As she’s grown in age she’s grown in confidence, which has been frankly a big relief, but not that much confidence. At least 3 days a week, there’s some kind of clinging when I take her to school – it might be as mild as needing a few cuddles, or right up to the full blown Beg and Cling dance. Yep, she’s that kid. You’ve all seen them.
And then there’s the night fears that appeared a couple of years ago. I know, I GET that! I was terrified of the dark as a kid thanks to my two older sisters’ constant torment (cue evil Russian accent): “Dracula is coming to suck your blooooood”. Teeth time, story time, snuggle time, ‘night, love you’, dark…… ARGGGHHHHHHHH! Terrifying. The dark was so so scary for me right up until adulthood and then some.
But I had to suck it up. The hall light was left on while I was falling asleep and that was it. No parent checking on me, no staying with me, no lullabies. It was goodnight, get myself to sleep. I remember lying there in a sweat sometimes, trembling. But I went to sleep eventually and now I can live on a remote farm with no other adult in the house and all lights off and sleep soundly all night.
Tippi has the door open, the hall lights on, lullabies playing softly, a 2 minute check, 5 minutes, 8 minutes etc until asleep which doesn’t usually take long but jeeeez it is interminable when has started, it’s the end of the day, couch is beckoning.
So here’s the thing. I want Tippi to grow into a person who is independent, resilient, brave, fierce, adventurous, confident, able to take risks, living life to its fullest, and every other cliche I can think of. I don’t know for sure, but I strongly believe my parents did that for me, with a little help from my big sisters.
I confess, I’m over pandering to her fears whether they’re real or imagined. Surely by doing so, I’m fueling them, aren’t I? By hugging her 10 times at school drop off, hanging around, waving, encouraging, maybe I’m being nice and loving, but it’s not helping her to learn independence. By staying with her in her room when she’s scared at night might be a motherly thing to do, but doesn’t it confirm that if I’m not there, monsters might come in?
I’ve toughened up lately. I walk away at school after just a couple of hugs. I speak sternly if she follows me out, and I don’t look back. Actually this week I did look back and she was skipping happily back into school which tells me she’s playing me. I don’t stay in her room after lights out.
Then on the flipside… she’s 5, that little teary face breaks my heart into a million pieces.
Oh FFS, no it doesn’t, it’s infuriating, I have other things to get on with and this kid needs to learn resilience.
So tell me, how loving and patient do I have to be to these fears without cementing them for her, and how tough do I have to be without traumatising her?
Parenting Dilemma #5078.
Do you have a fearful child? How do you manage it?