A Trouble Shared: Listening To Kids

There’s a prevailing notion that holidays will give you all more quality time as a family. They do in some respects; there will invariably be more outings, more meals sitting around a table, more playing on a beach or in a park. However, unless you’re staying in a 5* hotel with hot and cold staff in every room, there’s still the inevitable juggling of everyone’s routines – people all wanting to do different things at different times, shops only being open at certain hours, mosquitoes, sunburn, rain…..Too much booze and an unfamiliar bed leading to being tired and crotchety the next day, wanting to slouch in a sun lounger with a hair of the dog and a trashy novel but instead having to be fun and busy somewhere, playing Frisbee or looking at a castle. It’s my holiday too! you scream silently. Do you eat out (which costs an arm and a leg – especially now with the exchange rate – topical Brexit reference!) with kids whinging at something they don’t like and refusing to sit properly? Or perform an endless round of cooking meals in an intriguingly populated ‘furnished’ kitchen, with wafer-thin pans that burn everything as soon as they get on a stove, an abundance of teaspoons but not one decent knife. Don’t even get me started on the indignities of camping.

Anyway back to the supposed quality time – the possibly erroneous belief that you will have an opportunity to have a proper conversation with your child, as opposed to the, ‘Have you done your teeth/homework/room?…HURRY UP, WE’RE LATE!!!’ variety. The chance to find out what they really like or dislike, what their hopes and dreams are, or their fears or worries.

On our recent holiday, I thought I’d had one of these missed opportunities to delve closer into my son’s psyche. It was late, they were getting into bed, when my youngest suddenly appeared in the sitting room in floods of tears. I assumed it was the elder who had baited him, but no, it seemed not. Initially he didn’t want to talk about it, shuddering sighs being the only thing to escape his mouth as the tears continued to stream. Finally though, he blurted out, ‘It’s Cars!’  I paused, puzzled.

‘Do you mean the film?’ They had just watched it on my laptop.

A furious nod. ‘I’m sad because it’s ended. I don’t want it to ever end.’

This was very odd, because he’s watched it many times and never responded this way. Being tired myself and a little tipsy, my main concern was to get him off to sleep. I managed to get calm him, but later on I thought I should have probed more. Surely his response to the film was about something else that was worrying him. Their dad is quite ill – was he fretting about that instead? Or about going into a new school year? Troubles with friends?

The next day, he actually brought the subject up again. I was glad, I said, because I thought I hadn’t asked him enough about it. Was it really the film that was bothering him or was there something else?

‘No. I’m sad because it ended. I didn’t want it to…..There might be a Cars 3 though.’

So, there we have it, ladies and gentlemen. Psyche probed and it turns out Pixar’s output is his main anxiety in life. Now then, where’s my sun lounger and *Danielle Steel…?

 

 

*I actually read some very proper books this holiday. Just dramatic licence….