Neither parent responds immediately, but the little boy can feel the tension and knows that all is not as it should be. “What’s wrong?” he says, in a sleepy, husky voice.
His mother drops her hands and swings around towards him as his father turns his attention to him with a sudden smile on his face. “Hey son, what are you doing up?”
His mother also has that smile on her face now, as she crouches down to his height. It feels weird.
“I’m thirsty,” he mutters. “What’s wrong?” he asks again before anyone can divert his attention.
“Nothing sweetheart,” replies his mother, with a smile he doesn’t believe. “Let me take you downstairs for a glass of water.”
“Are you fighting?” asks the little boy, undeterred.
“Of course not!” says his father, with an outraged voice. “We never fight!” The boy is sure he has heard them fight, many times. Why is his dad lying?
“Now go with your mother and get that water. You should be asleep, you know!”
“Yes, you should be asleep,” his mother echoes. “Come along now, let’s fetch that water and get you back to bed.”
The little boy goes reluctantly with his mother. He thinks about the cuddle, but is afraid to ask – they’ll probably say no. He feels confused. He doesn’t know why.
After he drinks the water, his mom takes him back to his room. “Don’t worry, honey. There’s nothing wrong. It’s just your imagination. Everything’s fine!” she smiles - that smile. It doesn’t feel fine.
“Go to sleep now, ” she whispers, shutting the door behind her.
He slides down under the covers and lays there in the dark, thinking. He feels an uneasy feeling in his tummy, just like when he is nervous or worried. Why is he feeling this way? He doesn’t like it.
Mom said everything was fine. Moms and Dads are always right, aren’t they? That means he must be wrong. Yes, that’s it! He is wrong about what he feels is happening, about the fighting and tension and weird smiles. He must stop listening to his feelings - then he won’t feel so yukky. “Everything’s fine, I’m wrong, everything’s fine, I’m wrong, everything’s fine……..” he whispers, like a mantra, to himself in the dark.
Many adults recollecting their childhood may remember such an incident, - when they started to disbelieve their own ‘inner knowing’, or intuition, because a parent or other well-intentioned adult told them that they were imagining something that they thought they knew. How about you? If this does resonate, how much work have you had to do, as an adult, to re-connect with your intuition? I know for my part, I cannot count how many hours I spent in workshops, therapy & self-help to get back in touch with and trust my own inner knowing.
Suggestion: Whatever your intention, next time you want to tell a child that he or she is imagining something, STOP, take a breath, and ask yourself if they really are…..