Summer started nursery yesterday, for just under 4 hours, and when I went to pick her up, I was told that she’d cried the entire time, other than settling briefly outside for a few moments and inside for a short nap in her Key Worker’s arms. My usually happy and hungry baby hadn’t eaten or drunk a thing all afternoon and of course, just to add insult to injury, she burst into tears the minute that I picked her up, crying out with a look of sadness and confusion on her gorgeous tiny face. I know this is an all too common scenario, not unique to me or Summer but a situation that unfolds for thousands of kids and their parents at the nursery drop off every single day. It’s not fun for anyone, least of all when as a highly sensitive mum of highly sensitive children, the experience becomes difficult to shrug off.
I’m an empath, someone who absorbs the emotions of other people (or creatures) as if they were their own. Yesterday, for me, that meant feeling a deep sadness when thinking about Summer being without me. I remembered moments from my own childhood, as a shy, sensitive introvert, and how I hated the feeling of being without my own Mum, out of my comfort zone and with a feeling of worry. (I was the child hiding behind my Mum’s skirt at social events). The discomfort at Summer being so upset is not a new feeling. I’ve experienced it for years with Jasmine and something I continually work at is allowing these big expressions of emotion to just be there, without the need for me to fix them, prevent them or stop them as soon as they start but it is definitely a continuous challenge.
“Maybe we should just start her in nursery when she really needs to start,” I could’ve said to Ben last night, preventing any further upset and protecting my sweet baby angel from any more angst and therefore protecting myself too from dealing with her pain. I could’ve said that, but I didn’t, because deep down I do know that it’s the best thing for us both.
So the point of this blog is to share the conclusions that I’ve come to because it is through these processes that we get to know ourselves better, establish where we need support and ultimately grow into becoming the best versions of ourselves we can be. So if, like me, you struggle with either your own emotions or those of your child, maybe some of these can help you too:
- Babies can still benefit from my empathy, even if we can’t (won’t) solve the problem: I’m a huge advocate for gentle and respectful parenting, accepting and labelling our children’s emotions and coaching them through a difficult time by showing up with understanding and support for what they’re going through (as we seem to be able to do more easily for our adult peers.) Even though Summer’s capacity to understand verbal language is limited at this stage, I can still offer my genuine support for what she is going through. I can tell her I understand how tricky it is to be without me and that I can see how upset and sad she is. I can reassure her that I will be back later and that we can cuddle and snuggle as much as she likes then. I don’t have to take her pain away but I can definitely tell her, “I get it.”
- My own emotions come from a place of fear. This is a biggie! I fear in that sending my sensitive child to nursery and for her experience to be negative (so far) that I am somehow causing her harm, impacting on who she will be when she’s older. I also fear making the wrong decision because as much as we do our best as parents, of course, we can’t ever really know whether our decisions are the right ones. We can’t control everything and can only make decisions out of love, based on what we know now to be true. The future is anyone’s guess and the emotion of fear is itself a projection of the future, not the present moment.
- I deserve to carve out the life for myself that I want: I don’t need to feel trapped by my children’s emotions or put my life and my own desires and dreams on hold for the sake of my children. Maybe this sounds harsh (or obvious) but without my girls being at nursery, I wouldn’t have gone for lunch with my husband today and chatted about life like the old days. Without that time away (which I acknowledge isn’t for everyone) I wouldn’t have the space for creativity that I’m longing for. Without the chance to experience nursery, Summer wouldn’t learn how much fun it can be to be away from Mummy and I wouldn’t allow myself the chance to grow in my own strength and resilience too.
- There are always positives: sometimes in the thick of a difficult time, I find it difficult to see a brighter future and instead I let fear takes centre stage. Finding positives and training our minds to focus on those can add a sense of ease and lightness to the trickiest situations and often once you start, you can’t stop! Summer will learn to enjoy all the wonderful things that nursery has to offer. She will have new and wonderful experiences that I don’t have the time/energy/space to replicate at home. I will have time away to re-charge, to show up for both my girls as a more energised and present Mum and I am showing my girls how to try to strike a balance in life as a Mother with a fair few strings to her bow.