I recently discovered something about how my child was feeling that came as a huge surprise. I’d been busy carrying on with life smugly thinking all was well in our little world and I had finally cracked this parenting thing.
But I was wrong and I had totally missed something.
It seems that a friendship at Toby’s after-school club had gone a little sour and my six year-old was no longer comfortable in a certain boy’s company, and was struggling to stand up to the boy who is considerably older. He spends quite a bit of time at this place both in the morning and in the afternoon so it’s important that he’s content there.
The revelation came during our bedtime story and cuddle, and it led to an hour-long chat about the issue. In the morning it was clear that Toby was already feeling better about things having got things off his chest.
As a single working parent I subject my kid to a fairly punishing regime Monday to Friday. We’re both out the house from 7.30am to 6.15pm every weekday. It’s less than ideal and I’m trying really hard to change it. It also means that during the week when Toby has me around he rarely has my attention as I’m occupied with getting dressed, breakfast, making tea, dealing with mail, catching up on work emails, loading/unloading the dishwasher, loading/unloading the washing machine etc etc. You get the picture.
The two-day weekend can end up as a battleground for conflicting priorities too, between giving Toby the love and attention he needs, fitting in other friends and family and the never-ending housework.
This is why I never skimp on the bedtime story. From 8pm to 9pm I spend this precious hour reading to Toby and what we’ve discovered is the stories we read usually turn into a prompt to talk about many other issues, from what’s going on in the world to what’s going on in our lives.
I’ll admit that when I’ve had a stress-filled day and my brain is churning up the day’s emails on a loop, I can sometimes go through the motions. But I don’t think I’ve many years left of being able to snuggle up with him in his bed and read aloud to him so this time is vital for our bonding, and we are hopefully creating a template of openness and discussion that will serve us well for years to come.
I also hope that I’m teaching him the role fiction can play in understanding ourselves and others. Fiction can be a valuable tool in helping us work through our own issues or demons through escaping into the dilemmas of others. Unconsciously I can often be drawn to works that on some level tap into my own personal woes, and therefore help me find answers. By making books a staple of Toby’s life he too will hopefully be able to find in literature the answers to life’s challenging questions that his mother will no longer be able to help with.