It’s Sunday 23rd January 2011 – the eve of my eldest child’s first day of school. Like all first time school Mums there was so much occupying my mind– five years – where had it gone ? I gazed at a favourite photo of him as a toddler, sitting at a table just fit for his two year old frame, smiling and feeding himself a fistful of sandwich, the sun making that blonde hair brighter than ever – seemed nothing at the time, a moment that could have easily gone uncaptured, but on this night it was a reminder of days cherished and passed – tomorrow he would not be sharing such moments with me. Would he still be smiling ?
Well, it was soon bedtime, and as usual his choice of a story. On this night, he was particularly certain of the story that he wanted to hear – Mem Fox’s “Koala Lou”. Koala Lou is the story of a little koala, “Lou”, who loves to hear her mother speak those words, “Koala Lou, I DO love you” Things change and it’s not long before there are so many other baby koalas, her mother has no time to spend with her. The thing that she misses most though is hearing those words from her Mum. Koala Lou sets out to win back her mother’s attention by trying to win a tree-climbing race – she doesn’t win, but her Mother, recognising what she has been trying to do, lavishes her with the love she so needs.
Why did my son want this story this particular night ? I think his choice was a deliberate one. I think he was wanting to say something like this……”Mummy, tomorrow my little world is going to get a bit of a shake up…..this is big for me……you won’t be there…. but I still need to know I am ok and that’s something I can’t be sure of…what will help to make me feel ok? – knowing that you love me and always will.”
I left him on his first day, having whispered those same words to him after his name, “I love you, always have and always will”. He had grinned widely and left confidently. I am so grateful to him for letting me know what he needed. It was good for me as a Mum to receive that message – a loud clear one about what he needs most from me and our relationship when change and uncertainty strikes.
It was good too for me as a therapist – a reminder of the contributions that children make to their own lives (and to therapy should they ever engage in this) – the gift that they give themselves of seeking out what they need, whether a need for fun, hope, joy, soothing or comfort.
Well-respected child therapist, Gary Landreth, whose work with children is admirable in how genuine and authentic he is in his care of children has had a great influence on my relationships with children, both my own and others. One of the great influences he has had is through his deep trust in what he refers to as “children’s inner natural motivation to comfort and take care of themselves”. He argues that “we adults are not wise enough to know the capacity and potential of children. Our view of children is typically much too narrow and restrictive.” Sadly, I know he is right, but may I always, out of genuine care for the children whose journey I share, not lose out on seeing their potential because of my lack of trust, patience, or wisdom.
I would much prefer to keep learning from the “koala lou” moments.
Fox, M. (1988) Koala Lou Penguin: Melbourne
Landreth, G. (1991) Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship. Muncie, IN: Accelerated Development.