Ask any parent and most of us would admit that on any given day, we question ourselves constantly over our parenting decisions and judgments.
Are our children, eating enough, eating too much, eating healthily enough, getting enough sleep, keeping up at school, getting bullied, God forbid doing the bullying....? The list is endless.
But I wonder how often we ask ourselves whether our children are happy. I'm not talking about superficial happiness. Not just the satisfaction they might get from an unexpected ice-cream or trip to the zoo, but a fundamental feeling of contentment and peace of mind.
Over lunch the other day, my five year old daughter caught me unawares with a comment that came right out of the blue just as we were tucking into our spaghetti:
"Sometimes, however hard I try, I can't get to sleep at night because I can only think about horrible things that make me sad!"
Taken aback, I quizzed her further whilst at the same time remembering that one should take a lot of what she says with a large pinch of salt. But she was resolute. My suggestion that when horrible thoughts come into her head she should squeeze them out and think about happy things, was met with insistence that she had tried that but the nasty thoughts were "too strong in my brain".
I was shocked, saddened and a little concerned. My daughter is, I think, not unlike the majority of other five year olds. She has her ups and downs but is basically a happy, healthy, carefree child, quick to laugh, just as quick to cry and she's giggling again before you've come back with a tissue. She sleeps well and has lots of friends.
It turns out that the main player in these "horrible thoughts" is her worry that someone is going to snatch me and her father away from her.
A long chat followed. I strove to convince her that no one was about to take her parents away and that we would always be there for her. She seems to have accepted my attempts at reassurance and was easily comforted my Dr Seuss and a handful of gummi bears.
Should I be worried or is this normal?