I was FURIOUS with DH yesterday. DD’s been having another bit of a wobble at nursery, probably just not back into the swing of things after her virus and the bank hols. Yesterday was a mummy day, and I tried really hard to be calm and cheerful and to keep her calm and cheerful. The aim was to help her relax and feel secure, for us (and DS) to all have fun together. We had a lovely day in the sunshine with a couple of low-level treats. I didn’t shout and she didn’t burst into tears all day. Hurrah. (This is a major achievement for me and DD when we are together all day, especially with no visits or visitors.)
Then DH gets home, a bit early. The kiddies are delighted to see him, as am I. Bathtime and storytime progress smoothly. We talk about DD going to stay with my parents (her beloved grandma and dziadziu) this weekend for a couple of nights so she can be spoiled rotten and I can give DS my full attention for once before we all go on holiday next week. Then, just before bed, DH says to DD ‘And when you get back we’ll be gone to Spain on holiday and you’ll have to stay here by yourself with Charlie Cat!’. OMG. This is his idea of a joke.
I didn’t say anything, just laughed it off as ‘silly daddy’, and off we all trooped upstairs for bedtime. DD took a while to let me go, a little unusually, and there were a few tears, very unusually, before she would settle down. Then a couple of hours later, we hear this wailing from upstairs and she’s half asleep having a nightmare. This isn’t uncommon, but we haven’t had one for weeks.
I came downstairs after settling her feeling really upset. My baby girl is clearly feeling a bit insecure at the moment, for whatever reasons, and the one thing she really didn’t need to hear just before bed was a ‘joke’ about being abandoned, left behind, being alone, and missing out on her holiday. I told DH off and he got really defensive. This morning, though, the first thing he did was talk to DD, apologise and reassure her that we would never leave her and we are all going to Spain together.
My very limited understanding of neuroscience is that the human sub-conscious does not have ‘a sense of humour’ and processes everything that’s said and heard quite literally. That’s why sarcasm and self-deprecation are so damaging to our self-esteem, because deep down, this becomes how we actually feel about ourselves. And why, after 20 years, DH’s amusing little digs at my idiosyncracies have become slightly wearing.
I don’t think it matters whether daddy is joking or not. I think we really need to watch what we say to our children, so far from being a laugh, it doesn’t become something for them to worry about.
What do you think? Am I taking this all a bit too seriously and lacking in a sense of humour myself? Have you or someone close to your kids ever made a ‘joke’ that they took literally?