We went away camping with four other families. Between us, we had eleven kids between the ages of 1 and 7. The weather was beautiful. We cooked over a wood fire and the kids hung out playing well and laughing together. The sea was still warm enough for a swim. It was a beautiful weekend.
On the last day, my partner and I went to pack up the tent. I’d told my son earlier that we were soon to pack away. We’d just taken the fly sheet off when he came rushing over to us. “I need a rest, put the fly sheet back on,” he whined.
I let him know that we weren’t going to put the fly sheet back on, but said he could rest inside the inner tent if he wanted. He went inside and started leaning against the tent walls. I got inside and put my arm gently behind him, “No, I’m not going to let you lean against the tent like that. It could rip.”
He stayed put, so I said, “I’m going to move you away now,” and did just that.
He protested loudly, “Get away from me!” he shouted angrily. I moved back a little. He was still very angry, but crying now, too. He kept screaming, “Get away from me!”
I wasn’t quite sure how close to be, so I thought I’d experiment with distance. I moved back further. He was still shouting at me and crying, so I got out of the tent.
“Come back,” he shouted!
I had obviously gone too far. I got back in, and he started crying harder. The anger subsided and just tears remained. I moved a little closer. The sobbing died down and we cuddled.
I got on with the packing and he lay in the tent for a little while longer, then got up and joined the other kids, who were eating sausages.
Amazingly, there was no further issue or upset about leaving. When it was time to go, he happily went round saying goodbye, and hopped straight in the vehicle.
It seemed like the wonderful weekend had made him feel safe, loved, and good. And that feeling of goodness allowed some buried sadness to pop up. Probably because he’s been listened to regularly, he was able to let me know I’d moved too far away from him! I think by staying close and listening to his anger and tears, I helped him clear away old hurts. When they were flushed out, he was free to think well and say goodbye with lightness and warmth.
—Rachel Schofield, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor (living in Australia)
Join Rachel in her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding online class starting June 1. Learn more >
Listen to the podcast of her teleseminar How Do I Connect With My Baby?.
You can learn more about Parenting by Connection in the Listening to Children booklet set.