Miss 7 was full of tears last night.
Because we are saying goodbye to a couch.
It is a couch we have loved for many years. It is a couch the kids have climbed on and jumped on. It is a couch that has had its large cushions turned into tunnels, cubbies and pig stys. It is the place we have sat with friends. It is the place we have posed for family photos.
It is just a couch. But to my daughter, it is so much more.
We are letting it go simply because it will not fit into our new house. We have been talking about this change for a few months. And yet, when a lady came to look at it last night, it finally felt real. Miss 7 sobbed, reminiscing about all the things she has done with that couch. About the fact that as far as her memory travels back, it has always been there.
I could have said, “Stop being so silly, it’s just a couch”. And to be honest, several years ago I probably would have. Instead, I held her, I rubbed her back, I listened. When I did speak it was to mirror her thinking. “We’ve had the couch for as long as you can remember. It’s so much fun to play with. You know you’ll miss it when it’s gone, and so will I”.
She felt heard. She felt understood. She continued to cry for as long as she needed and was then able to relax into a restful sleep.
The couch’s new owner will be returning tonight with a trailer to take it away. Before she arrives, we will have a last play with the large cushions. A last bounce. A last family photo. Then we will thank it for being such a sturdy and comforting part of our lives, wishing it well for its new (and likely more gentle life) in someone else’s home.
Through the eyes of a child, every feeling is valid. I could have dismissed my daughter’s reaction. I could have told her to stop being silly. I could have reminded her that it’s just a couch, it can be replaced. I could have become frustrated by the interruption to bedtime. I could have labelled her a drama queen.
But I didn’t. I gave her the time, space and comfort to process her emotions fully.
When we shush our children or make them feel silly for their feelings, the only thing that changes is their trust in us. They learn quickly that ‘happy’ is what we want. Negative thoughts should be kept to oneself, repressed.
We may feel temporarily chuffed that we’ve created a life of ease. But it is because our child is offering us a filtered version of who they are. They won’t share as readily, trust as easily or be authentically them.
And sadly, if you feel that you can’t trust, share or be yourself, the negative influence of peer pressure, poor mental health and low self esteem are likely to be in your future.
So, will we continue to wear our happiness filter or listen, really listen to the full depth of feeling that our children bring? I’ve already decided. Now it’s your turn.