Working in CAMHS and perhaps especially as a grandparent looking after small children I have a rich supply of new angles on relationships with children. I have more troubled sleep over both roles than ever before. Despite my grand old age there is no slacking in my seriousness and still want to work well both professionally and personally.
The joy of working with children is the honesty you often get in the moment. When you get things wrong you know about it – or if they wont tell you direct they know an adult who can.
Its not always so. A wise old owl once told me that good news finds you but you have to go hunting for bad. He was sort of right in that some children are so sensitive and take on so much responsibility for things going wrong that they think it must be something they’ve done despite some of the appalling errors I have made (I am human). Thus, bad feeling (and thoughts) get buried.
I am part blameworthy for this – my seriousness and wanting to do well is somehow conveyed. I suspect that empathy on their part enables them to spot brittleness and they bite their tongue rather than risk my feelings. They are then wrongfooted when I “go a hunting” and sometimes put my own foot in it: “Why ask me how therapy is going for me when I am not ready to be honest”.
At home, I have had some time to reflect on my own honesty as I strive to be a “good enough grandad”. So I mask my frustrations and my distaste for all manner of bodily fluids and try and communicate an unconditional love for children regardless of what they have done in their pants or demands on time and energy.
What I haven’t squared (just yet) is in hiding my feelings do I somehow communicate something else which can be interpreted in all manner of ways: “Being honest is wrong” “What I have done is so wrong that he cant find the right words to express his disgust”. Fascinating stuff, well to me it is.
I am hoping I might be more clear headed when I go and do my talk with a local charity where I share how working with children has improved my work with adults – which it indeed has. Its putting these learning moments into words which others can grasp rather than leaving them thinking “What an old fuddy duddy if he weren’t so old I might have understood a word of that”. Or, if I am feeling very brave I might go hunting for honest thoughts as to whether the talk did make sense – and they may give an honest reply or maybe quietly smile but think its time for me to hang my boots up.