It’s a taken fact that when one person in the home isn’t happy then the entire house has a big dark cloud hovering over them. I know this all too well as I experienced it firsthand a few years ago. My family and I were on holiday in the UK and my dear husband was sweet enough to take on the responsibility of arranging our accommodation. I agreed wholeheartedly as I was glad that I didn’t have to phone around, get quotes and do all the mundane and frustrating work of finding us accommodation. He took it on and I was super glad as I trusted his decision and I had no reason not to. On the day of arrival in the UK, it was fraught with much frustration, firstly, the accommodation was quite a distance from the Tube station (I was told it’s a brisk 5 minute walk when in actuality it was a brisk 30 minute walk to the guesthouse). Upon arrival at the accommodation, we were told that we would need to remove our shoes at the doorway (my expensive takkies to be left outside, I didn’t think so). At this point I looked at my husband with a really annoyed raised eyebrow. He knew better and he quickly asked the nice British lady, “can’t we leave our shoes in the foyer?” With a frustrated look on her face she agreed reluctantly. Finally were allowed entry into the pokey home and was told that we need to carry our luggage up six flights of stairs to the attic. Apparently the British build upwards rather than sideways, its probably the fact that there isn’t enough space, so up we went, huffing and puffing. I was attending gym at the time but this was ten gym sessions in one afternoon, certainly not my idea of fun. We finally reached the top breathless and we are introduced to our respective rooms. On the surface it looked quite quaint and homely, but as we entered the main bedroom, a sudden bout of vertigo hit, my heart began to palpitate and I started to sweat profusely. The ceiling was sloping to the right and stood just a few inches above my head. I felt a panic attack coming on and when the British lady and gentlemen left the room, I started my rant. My husband got a tongue lashing like you wouldn’t believe and my two children retreated into their rooms and put their head phones on so that they couldn’t hear me go on and on about how upset I was at the lodgings and how disappointed I was at my his bad arrangements. This rant I must add went on for quite some time. After an hour my husband decided that it was time to stop indulging me and he shut off emotionally. This irritated me even more and I felt as if I wasn’t being acknowledged. I then went on a sulk phase and I refused to talk to anyone. So that was the background, what happened next was in my opinion a “bring mum down to earth” moment.
Both my children came to me and sat next to the bed. They looked at how sad their mother was and felt that they needed to do something about my mood (I suppose they felt responsible and needed to “fix” the situation). My daughter asked, “do you want to change rooms with us mum?” My son said, “it’s okay mum we will move and you can take the other room”. My partner then came and sat next to them and said, “I will try and get us another accommodation; I will phone around and see if we can get another place to stay, however I am not sure if we will get something as when I booked most of the accommodation was booked up because its Wimbledon season but I will try again.” I listened to these three people with sadness in their eyes, all trying to pacify an “ungrateful” mother who only thought about herself and her needs. For a few hours I had forgotten that I was not the only one on vacation but we all four were and my behavior has put a damper on the best experience of my children’s life, i.e. holidaying in a foreign land. I must tell you it was at the moment the lights went on in my head and I sprung up like a South African Springbok. I came to the stark realization that “happiness is a state of mind” and as a family we all share emotions and if one member is sad then all members are sad. After feeling like a total heel, I decided that as a parent our children look to us for happiness. If we show happiness and joy then they are happy and joyful. If we show sadness and pain, they feel sadness and pain. As much as we are individuals we are a unit and when there is a kink in one part, the entire system starts to dysfunction. That was for me an amazing self-revelation.
I am aware that it is a huge responsibility as a parent to keep the family happy and together, but I realized on that particular trip that had I not pulled myself together, my family would never have been able to enjoy their vacation, they would never be able to fully be present in thought, mind and deed in anything they did, saw or experienced. I figured we are the glue that keeps the family intact emotionally. It’s a power I knew existed but took for granted. It was only when my husband and I got over the initial anger and we started to communicate, I noticed the power of a changed mindset and attitude in our children. The children’s headphones came off, they were happier, talkative and interactive with one another, they smiled more, cracked more jokes and they even spent more time in our company (in our “pokey” room) I might add. From there onwards, we learnt as a family to adjust ourselves to our surroundings and the shoe removal became a little “joke” between us as and we learned that not everything works out the way we want it too but then that’s life and life is unpredictable and as Gretchen Rubin, author of the “Happiness Project” states, you are only as happy as your saddest child”. I decided from there on not to abuse my power of being a parent. I chose to make my parenting impactful and positive as my little “sponges” look to me as a parent to guide the way.
Here are a few lessons I would like to pass on:
- As a parent you have more power than you think. Use it wisely to create healthy minds and emotions.
- As the first teachers your child will ever have in life make sure the lessons you teach are impactful and positive
- It’s hard to be happy all of the time, but as a parent we don’t have the luxury to be sad around our children since they feed off our emotions. Therefore, the only person that can make the change is you.
- We all are emotional and sometimes we act emotionally, ensure your children are aware that mum and dad have feelings too but it’s your job to ensure your child isn’t burdened with any negative emotion you may be exhibiting since children have a “nasty” habit of making the family problems their fault.
- Understanding each member’s emotions and how they deal with disappointment can assist you to pre-plan and work around those emotions to ensure you have a happier household.
- As parents try and create a home that has an “open door policy”. An open door policy would allow children and adults alike to free flow communication between one another creating an open space to vent and talk freely.