Kindness

Sharon Foxwell by Sharon Foxwell Additional Needs

Sharon Foxwell

Sharon Foxwell

I'm Sharon, I have a daughter with epilepsy and a severe learning disability. I blog about our livewire life.

Kindness

"Being kind to yourself". This phrase has become so ubiquitous that sadly, I think it’s lost some of its meaning. It’s been bandied around for years now, emblazoned across various merchandise in shops and splashed across social media on cute memes, usually with a cat with a paw around another. While I’ll never say no to a cat meme, I find myself internally sighing ‘yes, ok’ and scrolling past. Since I have become a parent carer, this phrase seems to be thrown my way even more, by everyone from well-meaning professionals to support groups and charities.

It was talked about in a meditation at the end of my yoga class the other week, and for some reason I really thought hard about it. The reason I’d been shrugging it off was not just due to the fact that it’s everywhere, but because I thought I was already being kind to myself. I prioritise self-care (yoga, counselling, walks etc. etc.), and I don’t feel guilty for treating myself when I need it. But when I looked deeper, I realised it’s more about my internal monologue, what I say to myself.

Here, I don’t think I am as kind as I could be.

One example that comes to mind is playing with my daughter, who is 9 but is cognitively around 18 months old. She likes to ‘post’ things (bits of paper into drawers), do very simple peg puzzles, have me read the same picture book repeatedly and watch the same sing and sign video from the late 1990’s, complete with presenters wearing Global Hypercolour T Shirts, on a loop. I get bored. I have never enjoyed this kind of playing, even when both of my girls were toddlers and I had only been doing it for a few months. Nine years on, when I am dragged off of the sofa to play with the same puzzle yet again, I feel frustrated and fed up. And then I feel guilty.

Guilt is one of the emotions I struggle with the most. In this case it comes from my internal monologue – here’s a flavour of how it goes…

“I should want to play with my gorgeous girl.”

“I need to do this to be a good mum.”

“I should be really grateful she is not having seizures in hospital and is able to play.”

“I should be enjoying and savouring these precious moments.”

“I should be doing this to help her development.”

And I realise. That is not being kind to myself.

Being kind to myself goes something a little more like this:

“It’s completely understandable that you’d be bored having to do the same activity repeatedly. Your mind wondering is perfectly fine, and having a nice podcast on in the background is fine too. It’s ok to do this only for a little while. It’s also ok to say no and not do it at all. School is where she gets all of this sort of play, and you can bond and spend time together in other ways that suit you both.” Interestingly, I wrote this as if I was saying it to a friend. A counsellor once (actually more than once) said to me. Would you talk to a friend how you’d talk to yourself? It’s a well-known but very helpful question to check in on just how kind you are being to yourself. A yoga or a massage can only go so far if we don’t talk to ourselves kindly. I am working on remembering that.

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