As mothers, we’re often told that our children give us their worst behavior because they feel safest with us. Largely, that is true. Our kids should feel the most safe when they are with their parents. It’s one of the greatest responsibilities we have to them. The world, while fun and exciting, can be a scary and dangerous place. Protecting my daughters, as much as I can, is probably the biggest responsibility I have to them. Their safety is my primary concern, especially while they’re so young.
So yes, I am and want to be their safe space. I want them to feel okay about falling apart in front of me. I want them to know it’s okay to have crappy days and to deal with hard emotions. I want to be a sounding board for them. I want to hear about their struggles and frustrations. My daughters are full-blown humans with full-blown human emotions. Despite the fact they don’t really know how to appropriately regulate those emotions most of the time, their emotions are real…very real. Especially to them.
But here’s the thing: I am a full-blown human with full-blown human emotions, too. And sometimes, my kids’ shitty behavior and crummy attitudes really hurt my feelings. I get tired of creating delicious dinners for tiny tyrants to claim not to like something they’ve never tried. It hurts when my daughter gets off the bus and without even a smile or a hello, immediately bitches at me for not bringing her bike . It makes me want to cry when they constantly scream at me for not buying the right snack (despite the fact I bought snacks at all). I get angry when I take them out for dinner or adventures and they tantrum about having to drive somewhere.
So I’ve started telling my kids when they hurt my feelings. I tell them when I’m sad. I let them know when I’m overwhelmed because their dad is gone again and I have no help cleaning the house and I have work I need to do and showers I wish I could take and I’d so much rather be playing with them or riding bikes or reading to them, but someone has to do the dishes and they’re not really that helpful around the house yet.
Because as important as it is for them to see me happy and know when something makes me smile or laugh, it’s equally important for them to know when I’m sad. And it’s important for them to know when they do something that makes me happy or sad. I think it’s a critical piece in the puzzle of raising empathetic humans. I love that I’m a safe space for my children. I love that they feel safe enough to come completely unhinged in front of me (I love it; I do not always like it). But I want them to be my safe space, too. I want them to know that their actions can affect people, including me.
They need to know they have the capacity to hurt people…and they have the ability to heal them, too.