Mersina and I went to the Early Learning Centre today, just a few hours before they closed their doors to the public forever. There was hardly anything left in the store. Parents and carers were buying the last few things at reduced prices.
We chose a ball. We already have a few but little M loves them and this one was small and colourful and inexpensive. In front of us in the queue was a woman holding a little girl not much older than M. The little girl’s choices from the store were being processed by extremely slow staff and paid for by her dad. The girl was in tears at being separated from her toys.
The mother’s response was to say that if she kept crying then she wouldn’t get the toys. I’m not sure if the girl understood but after a while she did calm down. Some other friends in the queue were also trying to explain to the 2-year-old about the way shopping works and that she would soon be reunited with her toys.
I was struck by the mother’s words though. Other than to stop the child crying out of fear that something worse would happen, what useful outcome could they possibly have? What would the little girl take away from that experience? Don’t show sadness because something worse could happen? Don’t express yourself? It made me feel bad for her.
I’m sure I do the same. I don’t express myself when I get upset for fear of something worse happening. In Super Nanny, the naughty step is a veritable trove of potential arbitrary detentions as JoJo’s only rule is that children go on there if they disobey mummy or daddy. What if mummy or daddy are wrong?
I don’t have an exhibit of parenting skills to show you and to offer in place of the ones just mentioned – threats. My 16-month-old daughter wanted to run around and play as much as possible in the empty store after being in her buggy for nearly an hour while I ran some errands. She played for perhaps 15 minutes and then I had to put her back in. She was in tears and protesting quite loudly and all I could do was say sorry.
On the way home there were gales and rain and her little plastic buggy covering was getting all blown around and she was getting wet and could do nothing about it. Again, all I could say was sorry and that we’d be home soon. At no point could I blame her for being upset, it was my fault she was in those conditions in the first place. The least I could do was let her express herself.