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Smiley Face

Photo by: Shutterstock

Remember me?

I’ve been in a funk for the past few weeks and didn’t much feel like writing about my baggage and bringing you all down with me. After all, I’m the happy face. I’m the positive one, the Pollyanna. So what’s Pollyanna to do when she’s got nothing funny to say and no energy to inspire anyone? I didn’t know the answer, so I hid. No Facebook, no phone, no coffee with friends. Just me and my baggage.

On Monday, my perspective changed.

Monday was Parent Interview day at my kids’ school. It was a humbling experience – seeing my kids through the eyes of their teachers. All three were described as kind, nurturing and empathetic. All three are great kids. All three make Darren and I indescribably proud.

I asked Baby G’s teacher if she had any ideas about how ease the morning separations. Baby G is still having a hard time saying goodbye every day, despite the fact that she adores her school, her friends and “the prettiest and kindest teacher in the whole WORLD!” Her teacher suggested we make a ‘contract’ with Baby G. This contract would take the form of a piece of cardboard with five empty boxes – one for each day of the school week. The agreement would be that each day she says goodbye with a happy face, she gets to draw a happy face in the box. At the end of the week, she gets a reward (we decided on an ice-lolly from the canteen).

Knowing Baby G’s sweet tooth, I figured it would be worth a try and may just break the habit.

When we got home, I discussed this idea with Baby G. After some thought, she said:

“I will do that contract, but only for three smiley face days.”

I showed her my five fingers and named the week days, explaining why she needs to have five smiley face days. Again, she shook her head and adamantly repeated:

“I will do the contract, but not for five smiley faces. Only three.”

I asked her why three and she looked at me dead in the eye, and said:

“Mum, I will do three smiley face days and two sad face days Kindy is a long time away from you, Mama, so I will do three smiley days, but I will be sad for two goodbyes and I am allowed to!”

I blinked. I gulped.

She is right.

She is entitled to her feelings, be they happy or sad. What am I doing, asking her to put on a happy face when she is feeling sad? Am I MAD? Is a sad face such a bad thing? It’s NOT! Know what’s bad? Asking her to pretend she’s happy to make the world outside of her feel comfortable. Just like her mum does.

Again, my four year old has taught me a lesson far bigger than any I think I may be teaching her.

We agreed, after that, that she doesn’t have to have a happy goodbye. She is entitled to be sad to see me go. I reassured her that I will always be there to fetch her and that I miss her, too. She reassured me that she feels happy very quickly after she is finished being sad. Tomorrow, we will ask her teacher to let her simply tick the box instead of drawing a happy face. She can tick the box to show that – happy or sad – she is going to say goodbye with confidence.
After this morning’s goodbye, I sat for a long time and thought about my four year old teacher. I thought about how I’ve avoided my blog because I am stupid-scared to show you anything but a happy face. I realised how absolutely crazy that is.

So, here I am.

Just me.

Not cracking jokes or being inspiring or throwing glitter and making life sparkle. Instead of a happy face, today I’m showing you my tired face, my overwhelmed face, my struggling-to-cope face. And I’m okay with that. It took a four year old to get me to accept that a perpetual smiley face really ain’t all that.

Michelle is a copywriter, artist and mum of three children under ten. Read more of Michelle’s work at They Call Me Mummy.

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