Old Mother Hugger

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To give the poor dog a bone:
When she came there,
The cupboard was bare....

Sometimes, even when you try to make things better... well, sometimes, you just can't.

Monday was a lesson in futility. Ironic that I had written a post on making things better. Ha! 

I think you have to count the things that go right and hold onto them, so when the deluge of Things That Go Wrong comes along, there's something to keep us from getting swept off in that current.

Monday afternoon, miracle of miracles, our eye exercises and homework went off without a hitch. Things were looking good. We had our snack story-time and enjoyed a few one-page chapters of "Seabird", and then, when Kiddo was ready to get down from the table...

....well, I can't tell you exactly what happened, but he ended up smashing himself onto the floor. It actually looked like he was trying to slide off or fall in some way, but it went all wrong. "What were you trying to do, sweetie?"

"I was trying to do a cartwheel, Mama." he sniffed through his tears. A Cartwheel. From a sitting position. Leave it to my kid to be the first in the world to attempt that feat. 

Thus, when we were needing to separate for Quiet Playtime, he 'needed me'. I need to go to the store, and proposed that he could do this with me in lieu of the playtime. He wanted company. I wanted to make spaghetti. We all have our motives. Heading to the store, he fell and skinned his knee. Before we even got there, in my mind, I imagined getting him one of those little toy motorcycles that you rev up with a glorified zip-tie sort of thingy. He'd been interested in them earlier. This would cheer him up, right?

No. No it did not cheer him  up. So excited to get it, telling everyone at the store about it. Everyone. We got home and I made it zoom successfully. Kiddo? Not so much. In fact, after several crash-and-burn wipeouts, he came to me tearfully, gulping and big-eyed. "Mama. I can't do the motorcycle." Emotional crash and burn there.  Poor kid. He really Did Not Need This. All the things in the world lately which feel so hard for him, and now a toy he was excited about was nigh inoperable. I hugged him and suggested he try to find something he knew he *could* do so that I could make that spaghetti and get dinner going.

Then, whatever it was he thought he could do, well... it wasn't working. I'd just started cutting up vegetables for the red sauce when he came into the kitchen again and looked at me, so miserable. 

"Mama" his voice broke, "I just want to be a crying machine."

My heart broke and cracked a little bit, I'm sure. That one-- I'll remember that for quite a while. I left off the kitchen work for a moment and took him to his room and just sat with him, ignoring the piles of laundry he'd yet to put away or the toys all over the floor. This wasn't the time to bring it up. And there never would be a great time to bring it up that night. It was a hard one, and Joe was so great. When I told him that I'd been working for over an hour to get the spaghetti made, he smiled. "It's going to taste great." he said. When I grudgingly smiled at him, he teased me again. "Honey, it really WILL TASTE GREAT." 

He was going out for the evening and asked me what he could do to help. I suggested he could start with making me a martini. 

The rest of that evening was a push to do the bare minimum and to keep us from rolling away on a sea of tears. Joe escaped and I did the dishes like the mindless zombie I'd been reduced to.

Looking back on all of this, I think I've found a new idea for a business: moms would benefit from having someone to 'mom' them from time to time. Sure, some mothers of young children have great, supportive relationships with their own moms or other women in their family. But what about the rest of us, who just sometimes want to go get some hugs and have a cup of tea and a good cry? Like Old Mother Hubbard, who goes to her pantry and finds nothing for the dog.... she has nothing for herself, either. 

I think a lot of us moms, sometimes, some days, experience an emotional empty-cupboard. Mom hasn't enough to feed herself, yet she is tirelessly giving of herself and what little she has to her children. 

Who feeds her? Who ensures her cupboard is full? Who gives her hugs? Not "Hey baby, maybe later when the kids are asleep...wink wink" hugs, but simply "I love and accept you unconditionally and know you are doing the very best you can right now. So just let me hold you, let me support you for a moment. Let me tell you that even with the mistakes, I know you work so hard, and bless you for this." 

I think there's a market for this. We keep trying to create empathetic robots people can relate to. Maybe we need to hire retired women who have a little love and comfort to give, and hook them up to receiving third party payments through our insurance.

Last night, a mentor-friend of mine called me up for an evening walk up to beautiful Mt Tabor. I had forgotten how pretty the reservoirs are in the evening, with the lights shining on the water. She and I talked, she gave me some excellent advice which I will follow up on. 

But the last thing she did was what I needed most. She gave me a hug. A kiss on the cheek, which is our way. The advice was pragmatic and good, but this was what I needed. Another, older, been-there-done-that mom just accepting me for the mess I was in that moment and loving me for it anyway. It makes me think that this would be a valuable service for those of us moms who are just slogging through it. A hug, a listening ear, a place to cry and some good advice...

an Old Mother Hugger. 


Narelle said…
Hi Hazel

Just wondering if you have heard of something called "emotion coaching" for those big emotions. I wrote about it here http://handsheartsminds.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/acknowledging-feelings/.

It works really well, and reduces those big long tantrums, over time to smaller but more productive emotional moments.

Kind Regards

Ah yes, Narelle. There were a lot of empathetic moments that night. I really like Kloppenmum's (Karyn Van Der Svets) suggestion of the Boring Cuddle and use that sometimes when I think we are at the 'talking ourselves into circles' point. Otherwise, what you described (empathy, reflective listening, discussing options for the future when emotions are calmer)always helps.

There was a recent radio show and article on empathy and how to 'raise a good kid'. I think one thing we forget as parents is that much of teaching empathy/sympathy isn't about 'how would you feel if you were in that situation', but acknowledging their feelings and needs as the child grows. I don't know how many times I see parents telling their very hurt children to 'shake it off'-- how can they develop empathy if their own parents don't model it for them when they are hurt?

The emotion coaching works well when the parent is able to have some objectivity and space. I wonder if there is an article about going from that place of parental frustration and transitioning emotionally to being able to coach our children, esp. when their frustration is fallout from misbehavior/mischief. This was the gist of what I was feeling when I wrote this piece-- that sometimes we parents need someone to mentor, nurture or reflect our ideas back to us. A more objective, sympathetic 'other', because we do shoulder an enormous burden in raising our kids.
Narelle said…
Mmmm, I'm not so keen on the boring cuddle. For me it doesn't have a positive energy behind it, and I only teach positive parenting.

The Circle of Security programme has a nice little framework for attending to your own stuff first. It's on this website http://circleofsecurity.net/resources/handout/ and is titled "COS Time In".
Narelle said…
Oh and one more thing, sorry.

The Hand in Hand organisation in the US helps parents to establish "listening partnerships". It's a good idea for those parents who feel alone in their pareting.
Thanks for these resources. I really liked the "Time in" as defined by the Circle of Security Website, and will have to check out the Hand in Hand organization.
Narelle said…
You will love Hand in Hand.


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