Who Are You Kidding?
Last week while waiting at the the pedestrian lights to cross a main road in the CBD, a woman with a pram in one hand and a small boy holding the other approached, looked both ways then proceeded to cross the road, seeming to ignore the bright red “Don’t Walk” sign. Her toddler cried out: “No, mummy, the light is red…” whereupon the mother said, “It’s ok” and kept going, taking the reluctant small boy with her.
Now I can’t know if they talked about this further or indeed if the mother said anything at all to ally her child’s concern. I understand why she did what she did: She had checked and deemed it safe to cross and she did. This is a common occurrence in our busy cities. Lots of people all in a hurry to get somewhere and deciding in the moment what risks to take to get wherever quicker … often with a lack of awareness of how their behaviour impacts those around them.
What I noticed was the energy of fear I felt from the child and it took me back to the first time in my childhood when my mother told me “everything is all right” when clearly it wasn’t. I remember feeling very scared about what was happening and when mum said what she did, I decided that what I was feeling must be wrong … and by association that meant I was wrong … not good enough … painful and confusing.
Many years later, well into my personal journey, I had an ‘ah-hah’ moment about this: her intention was loving and her communication was incomplete. I realised that my mother said what she did to reassure me that everything would be ok – that she was in charge and not putting us at risk. However she didn’t communicate this explicitly to me … she took the short-cut and said what she wanted me to hear: “everything IS all right” as if declaring it would make it so for me. What she didn’t know how to do was to acknowledge and respond to what I was feeling as well as telling me it would be ok. She did what she knew how to do out of her past – not safe to get “emotional”, let your intellect lead the way. A belief pattern that I also took on from an early age!
Becoming emotionally aware, resourced and up-to-date has been a conscious focus throughout my own journey and in the work I do. Opening up about my childhood feelings with my mother and other family members has been healing and liberating. And I am very fortunate to have been able to have this specific conversation with my mother in the later years of her life.
I hope the mother and child I encountered last week have a chance to do the same.
Children are great imitators. So give them something great to imitate.