Whenever you see a baby, there is this reflex around your mouth that makes it twist. Research has shown that it is hard to look angry at babies in general even when they look angry themselves. But to look angry at a smiling baby is just impossible. I also examine this phenomenon in my PhD thesis by the way 😉
It obviously starts earlier somewhere in the emotional and cognitive parts of our brain. Emotions such as affection and warmth are driven by the most rudimentary regions of our body, where hormones like oxytocin and endorphines are secreted. We also have expectations towards ourselves about how we want to treat children. We have believes of what society expects us to treat our children. And we see a lot of movies and advertisments where people smile all the time.
And smiling at a baby is the most natural reaction there is! It protects the child. With round cheeks, great eyes and a small nose, nature has produced a little human that everyone wants to protect and support.
But then there is your every day life. And if you watch yourself closely, you might notice, that you smile at your baby or even at your older child, whenever you see it. Even if you don’t feel like smiling. Even when your child does something that you disliked. But you don’t want to hurt his feelings so you smile. You are bored and exhausted and look out of the window. But whenever your child looks at you, you suddenly give him a smile.
Please: Stop doing that.
You wonder why our western world becomes more and more superficial and why everyone is showing a teethy grin on photos? You wonder why the first answer that slips you, whenever someone asks you how you are is: great? People all in the world must be so happy, if we believed all of them. And if you smile all day long in the presence of your child, your child will think just the same about our world.
What your child will think:
Everyone is always happy. My mom always smiles. She is always happy- even when I do something stupid. I am not always happy, so I am not normal. I have to smile on pictures, even if I’m sad. I have to smile at aunt Kathrin, even if I am scared of her. I will try harder to smile.
You are the center of your child’s world, of your child’s believe system and reality. So just relax a little more often. Be mindful whenever you spend time together and try to remind yourself as often as possible that you can show your feelings. If you feel exhausted because you had a hard day then why not frown? If you are mad or sad why not sit there with your mouth corners looking in the wrong direction? That won’t traumatize your child. It will encourage him to be authentic and to show his feelings.
Children don’t need HAPPY parents- children need REAL parents
I’m not saying you should NEVER smile. Whenever you feel like it and you are filled with joy, then please smile! It is one of the most wonderful body reactions to smile and laugh and it is so healing! But try to be aware a little more often of how you feel and what you are displaying in your face.
You seek for a little more authenticity in our world? More real people? Start with your child and show him how real people are. Start in your little world.