Friday, 18 February 2011

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall

The past few days haven't been plain sailing for me and Alice. She's endlessly teething, and getting frustrated if I don't understand her attempts to speak. Little things are of cataclysmic importance to her. Heaven forbid I cut a piece of food for her that she wanted whole, or put the left shoe on before the right. She's less tolerant of other children than usual, and if someone so much as brushes past her, she collapses in tears. She seems perpetually frustrated and angry.

Me? I'm fine. Honestly.

I thought I was fine until I went upstairs to the bathroom, and caught sight of myself in the mirror. Reflected back at me was a frowning face with a deep furrow between the eyes, and a turned down mouth. I honestly looked like a villain from a Disney film. Quickly, I made the effort (and it was an effort) to relax the muscles in my face. I took some deep, slow breaths and closed my eyes before heading back downstairs to my already wailing child. Almost as soon as she saw me, I noticed a change in her behaviour. Her tight little muscles began relaxing and her movements became less jerky. It was obvious that my display of physical ease and contentment was affecting her own feelings.

Now I'm not going to pretend that all has been plain sailing since. She has her own feelings regardless of mine, but my efforts to control how I displayed myself to her seemed to break the cycle of stress. Imagine you had to spend all day with a person who looked pained and even resentful. Even the most buoyant of characters would find it hard to stay happy under those circumstances. Being more aware of my body language and facial expressions not only makes me feel more relaxed and positive, but it has a similar effect on Alice too. It's a significant step towards turning a negative cycle into a positive one.

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