Friday nights are scheduled as ‘Family night’ in our house. Usually my husband and I try to think of ideas that will be different on this night than other nights. It usually involves things like staying up later, maybe watching a special show or movie, fun food and general ‘together time’. It sounds wonderful doesn’t it? Occasionally (usually) things don’t go to plan.
This Friday was one of those times.
I expected that it might be a tough night. The last day of the first week of school for two little ladies and getting up earlier than we have in months spelled a recipe for ‘anything goes’. I thought I was prepared. I wasn’t.
On our menu for the evening was pan-fried salmon, baked potatoes and corn on the cob. (It’s the corn on the cob that’s the important bit in the story so far.) The rest of the meal had been served up and my husband had gone back into the kitchen to get his plate. An altercation ensued between my eldest and middle daughters. The eldest tried to take the biggest piece of corn from her sister, citing that she was the biggest therefore she should have the biggest piece (not an entirely flawed argument). At this point, Hubby yelled in from the kitchen that the bigger piece actually was for her younger sister because she had helped make the meal tonight. That is when it happened.
Daughter #1 erupted into tears. I tried to reason with her, ‘Darling, you can have the bigger piece next time. It’s your sister’s treat for helping with the cooking tonight.’ This was met with loud, gasping WEEPING. Between the sobs, she managed to get out~ ‘I’m not special’ and then, almost yelling- ‘DADDY THINKS I’M NOT SPECIAL!’ She was nearly hysterical by now and kept repeating~ ‘I’m not special.’ She proceeded to sob, ‘I was tidying up and when I was ready to help, there was nothing to do.’ I was stunned. I actually sat there for a moment and didn’t move, just watching her. (Please, PLEASE do not message me and tell me how bad of a mother I am…I’ve been beating myself up all weekend.) When I finally did, I pulled her onto my lap, stroking her hair and kissing her and trying to explain to her that Daddy DID think she’s special. She finally calmed down (with a cuddle from Daddy too, of course.)
I’ve been processing this incident in my head all weekend now. Children, are so fragile. They need so much encouragement. If you have independent kids like I do, it is so easy to forget how much they need you when they’re constantly trying to tell you that they don’t. In the day to day ‘trying to get by’ it is so easy to let moments slip by when you can show and/or tell your kids how much they mean to you and how important they are. Here are five ideas to help you do just that.
- Put down what you’re doing to listen to your child when they’re talking to you, and make eye contact.This can be easier said than done sometimes, but it shows how much you respect your child and also models good communication skills to them.
- If you have more than one child, make sure to make one-on-one time for each of them. Even if it’s only a walk or drive around the neighbourhood, a half an hour of uninterrupted time with them will show them that they are the most important thing in the world to you for that period of time.
- Put a note in their lunchbox or schoolbag telling them how much you love them and how special they are.
- Buy or make your child a special greeting card, just because. Send it in the post, complete with stamp.
- Make a ‘Jar of Loves’ for each child. Choose a container of some kind, (we will be doing this this week and using recycled jam jars). Decorate them with each child’s name (you could do this as a project together and let them help with the decorating) Every day write down on a piece of paper something that you love about them or that they have done well and put it in the jar. At the end of the week, have a special time set aside to read all of the ‘Loves’ they have received that week. You may want to have a larger container in their room where they can store all of the ‘Loves’ and can read them anytime they are feeling low.
I hope some of these ideas help you to show your children how special they are. It is one of our greatest responsibilities as parents to build confidence and self-worth in them. The time and trouble you spend to do this will be worth far more to them than the most expensive toy or clothes that you could ever buy for them. They will thank you for the rest of their lives.