Petra drew a picture of giants yesterday. The daddy giant was smiling but the mama wasn’t. I asked why and we ended up in a conversation about my smiley face or lack thereof. Petra told me that she wanted me to stop frowning at her because she only wanted happy people at her house. Jeez.
I didn’t realise I’d been frowning more than usual. But I’m sure she’s right – I’ve had a bit going on recently, what with the move and the dramas and all – and my smile has probably faded a little.
And, I hope very much that Petra wasn’t parroting a message about proper behaviour that I’ve given her. I don’t want to give Petra the impression that she needs to be happy and nice all the time. And I don’t want her to feel that our love for her is conditional on her behaving in ways that are easy and convenient for us. I’ve certainly never said anything like “I only want happy children at my place.” But words aren’t the only, or even the main, way you pass messages to your children.
Of course, I don’t cause everything Petra says and does. She’s observing everyone she bumps into and making her own assessments and interpretations of their words and actions.
Parenting; it’s a fraught business for the conscientious mother.