This is about habits of connection. All our children really want is connection. They want to know that you’re there; that you see them; that you hear them; that you love them.
Over the years, our family have developed our own little traditions; ways of doing things and speaking to each other. It can be really helpful in times of stress to fall back on these little habits to reconnect and get through to a better place.
Especially when they are very young this can feel like an uphill battle. It takes a long time for these things to become habit for us, the adults, and it can be even longer before you start to see your children really start doing them independently.
For years now, we have got into a beautiful habit of giving each other gifts of nice things that we say. When I first introduced the idea, it made my husband squirm with embarrassment. He’s not very comfortable talking about feelings, or giving and receiving compliments.
We don’t do it often; just now and again, around the dinner table. We take it in turns to go round and ether say something nice about each other – something that you like or appreciate about them, or something that you are proud of them for doing, or something you’ve noticed recently. Or, sometimes we say something about ourselves that we’re proud of.
The kids absolutely love it. It models how to give and receive compliments, and how to be nice to yourself too. It makes everyone feel warm, happy, loved. It really kindles that connection, that sense of ‘I see you. I appreciate you’.
I take it a step further and sometimes write little letters or notes that I leave around the house. I even sometimes send little cards through the post with nice things written in them. Leading up to Valentine’s Day this year, I left a little note for each person in the family starting on 1stFebruary, with something that I love or appreciate about them.
As I said, we have been doing this for years.
And now, the kids have started reciprocating. They both joined in with the Valentine’s notes, not every day but frequently through the fortnight. It is so lovely to receive a little note with something someone values about you. I can see that this is creating beautiful memories for them too, and hopefully they will do something similar with their own children. Maybe they will even take this practice into their work environment when they are older. I can imagine those tiny ripples of kindness and appreciation spreading out, further into the future.
And right now, I’m struggling. I’m overwhelmed with things going on that are beyond my control. These stresses are affecting everyone in the family, but I’m doing my best to push on through with dignity and calm.
This morning, my daughter was in a bit of a grump. I was short tempered and lacking in patience, though trying very hard not to lose it completely. When I went upstairs to brush my teeth, there on the mirror was a note from my son to his sister.
“You are the best big sister anyone could have.”
Right there, stuck to the sink, was a note for me.
“Mummy. I love the way you help me when I need it!”
Right then, my heart lifted. I felt loved, appreciated, by this amazing 8 year old boy.
“Thank you!” I said. “I’ll put this in my pocket so I’ll remember it all day.”
And off we went; more loving, more connected, more able to get on with the day.