Hi from the beautiful sun drenched Algarve, where I have made an impromptu winter escape with my two kids. They are having a delightful time, splashing in rock pools, running about my aunt’s gorgeous villa, loving each other and… crying a LOT!
This afternoon after a sweet morning of Special Time we set out for another adventure at the much adored local beach. Except my daughter did not set out; she stood naked outside the front door refusing to wear clothes, get into her buggy or walk with us.
“I’m cold, I’m cold, I won’t go to the beach” she wailed on repeat.
“I hear you, I’m sorry you don’t like our plan right now.” And I listened. And about 40 minutes went by, by which point her brother was running out of patience. Now she was howling
“I want a different Tshirt” and I was reminding her that the one on offer was just fine.
“I’m dying of boredom, I don’t even want to go anymore” now my son was sobbing too.
I was fairly under-resourced and getting fed up by this point and vented to no-one in particular
“I’m just trying to take you guys for a picnic on the beach, nothing horrible ya know!”
And then the penny dropped. Spoiled Outing Syndrome. That is the technical term at Hand in Hand Parenting for this kind of phenomenon where you are having a lovely time and your kid loses it for no apparent reason. And sure enough, the wailing about the Tshirt progressed into a quiet
“If Daddy were here, you could take Zephyr to the beach and he would get me another Tshirt.”
There, it was out (the Tshirt was just a pretext to get some feelings out about her parents’ recent separation) and she could finally allow me to dress her and clamber into the buggy. As we strolled my son could have his turn to sob, throwing down his spade and then crying that he’s thrown it, crying more when I suggest we go and pick it up, distraught that he’d hate the beach now…and then…
“I miss Daddy…” and after some heavy crying, he too was back to his happy self.
During our contented amble towards the beach I really noticed how this was probably the first time in months I’d spent a few days of unrushed, unpressured time with my kids. Having this relaxed time allowed us all to tune in more deeply with each other and for me to be more relaxed and available. My kids had been ‘holding on’ for a chance to feel safe enough to let go. The body, with its extraordinary self-mending capacity for not only physical but also emotional wounds, uses the first opportunity it gets to dump out all the feelings about the times where there was not this level of connection. Spoiled Outing Syndrome is something you can expect to happen when you have some sweet, connected time with your children, often a day out or holiday. The sense of trust and safety you build up when you pour your delight and attention onto them allows feelings to bubble up from all the times where it hasn’t felt this way. And it can often throw us as parents because we can think ‘hey I’m giving you everything you need today, why are you upset?!’ So next time this happens in your family, maybe you can embrace it for the therapeutic emotional clear out that it is.
Anyone got a story of a Spoiled Outing they can share in the comments?