One thing I'll be forever grateful for, are the quiet chats I have with my teenage daughter .. usually after bed time when she's ruminating on life, the Universe and everything.
Last night, after a day under the duvet nursing a standard strep throat, I went to tuck her in ( she'll always be my baby ) and I knew that there were 'issues' running around her mind. Not much prodding prompted an almighty question for a Monday night at 10.45pm .. ' Mum, why do we always HAVE to be so happy'
Now, you know as well as I do that in our info indulgent online World, the onslaught of parenting tips and advice is incessant and aggressive. What they eat, how they play, who they play with, what they wear, identity, which school, allergies, and of course and gratefully, more and more, their mental health. Most of this all culminates in the typical sign off, ' We just want them to be happy'
So I'm sitting there on the edge of her bed, thinking reeeaaall quick. Is she trying to tell me she's depressed ? Maybe there's more Snapchat related beef going on at school ? GCSE stress ? TALK TO ME I'M FREAKING OUT ! And the panic that was rising in my chest was palpable because, our default setting IS to panic when they tell you that they're not happy and then leap to def con 5 and start executing the 'happy plan'. And I'm looking at her thinking, that's not what I need to do right now is it.
It's not an original thought I know, but right then and there I felt like telling the truth was more important than ever ... and that is, that we can't be happy all the time and that's perfectly and absolutely ok. We all have melancholic days, we all have reason to be sad sometimes and desperately trying to shove our kids out of the gloom and into the spotlight of constant chirpy'ness, is so very unhelpful.
When I was doing the Sunday Surgery on Radio 1, back in the day with the wonderful Dr Mark Hamilton, we'd regularly have people ask me why 'these callers' got in touch with their emotional problems .. 'don't they have friends?' Yes, of course they have friends, but until recently it really hasn't been cool to unload and share your anxieties and for Teens, I have to be honest, that doesn't seem to be changing a great deal. Insta Happy pear group pressure is rife .. like who wants to see sad people on my feed though ? I won't do my 'safety on the Internet is the White Elephant in the room, rant' right now ... see next week's blog ! BUT ... with all the excellent and overdue focus on mental health that we are experiencing, I really hope that some of that filters in to Schools and online to let our kids know that being in touch with your emotions means knowing that sometimes you will be sad and miserable. And accepting that is a huge gift. Not only and simply because it's how we know the good times are back but also learning ourselves how to process sadness knowing that it's not something that needs 'getting out of' sometimes, is a good thing. And then knowing when you need to ask for help and some support ... which you'll never do if we're determined that making you 'happy' is the answer.