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The boy on the escalator

When we don´t give the child the emotional support they need, so they can grow in their power, the emotion with the need in question ends up growing and takes away their power.

This is how a child starts to get stuck in a certain emotion and we as parents, feel quite helpless. In the worst case scenario, we feel so helpless, we start to go numb and don´t hear our children´s cries for support.

I was going down an escalator and I passed a father yelling “Go, go, go!” at his son to go down on his own, since he was pushing a pram with a younger brother in it. The boy, around five years of age, was crying and holding on to the rails like his life depended on it. His cries pierced my heart and I just had to turn around and go to him, since his father couldn´t. I told him he could hold on to my hand.

His father yelled: “He’ll manage on his own!”

“But he is scared”, I answered.

“He´s always scared”, his father uttered with frustration in his voice.

I stepped down a few steps, so I was on the same level and I could look straight into the boy’s eyes, as he was gazing down with shame.

“I wanted to take the elevator”, he whispered.

“I hear you, elevators are cool. These steps are cool too though, and huge,” I said, “they´re a thousand times as long as you are! You´re so brave to go down them, even though you are scared. Your father helped you by giving you some encouragement to do it, didn´t he? He believed you could do it, and he must be so proud of you now. So am I, you´re a brave boy. Now then, let´s count to five and then we can jump off together!”

We jumped off and he went along with his father and baby brother. I felt ashamed first for interfering, but soon it changed into pride. I too – in my angry and impatient years – had been irritated by my children whining and crying and not being instantly brave. I had not had the skills of empathy or compassion, but I had finally learned, and today I had acted. I thought of myself in similar situations many times, having maybe a bad day, maybe just being me at the time. It would have been so nice to have some help, some compassion, some guidance.

In the minute we spent together I had managed to fulfill nearly all this little boy´s needs. I recognized his fear, I looked him in the eyes and formed a bond of trust between us. I heard him voice his own wish and validated it. I stayed with him, praising him and brought some joy and playfulness into the situation.

I also didn´t mock or judge his father. How could I, when I´d been exactly like him in the past and still sometime was – during those bad days. He was doing his best with what he had. I gently showed him another way to handle the situation, with compassion, since I wished someone had shown me another way too.

I also challenged the little boy, who was clearly very upset with his father, to realize that his father was actually on his side, trying to encourage the boy to conquer his fears. The father might have lacked in the feminine skills of compassion and empathy (as do most fathers, since hey, were they taught these feminine skills by their fathers or were they taught to suck it up and get on with it?) but he was doing what he knew best, out of love for his son.

I could see the frustration in his eyes, as he was probably thinking the same thing us mothers often think – I did something wrong, I´m so bad at this. But see, this also is right – this sucky emotion of apathy will drag him down and help him to really dive deep into his core and find the emotions that are new to him, the skills he doesn´t yet master, but needs to, to become a better father, husband and all round human being. He was doing just that, feeling bad and not running away from his feelings by blaming me for overstepping or punishing the kid for making a scene.

It´s easy to numb ourselves in a situation where we feel helpless and it´s easy to blame others for our helplessness. When we really have no idea what to do differently, we need the people, who do have some idea, to help us. We need to start caring for not only our children, but all our children. They all belong to us.

The next generation will one day be taking care of us, so it´s in all of our best interest to install and sustain empathy and compassion in children and help each other in this gigantic task of parenting.


In this Babyjoy blog I write about the things that I see, feel and do. You are free to disagree, do not read anything as gospel. I write to clear my head and make sense of this world, and I hope my writings make you think and move you in one way or the other. Thank you for reading! Tara XX

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