Today was a shitty day.
[By the time you’re reading this, it has been at least a couple months since this has happened.…]
But today I came home drained from numerous things, and as I will occasionally do before I see the kids I will allow myself the alone time I have in my car drive home to expel the frustration out of me. (That’s just a fluffy way of saying I cried. A LOT.) Not even five minutes of being home, Lucy told me that Jackson lost the $5 allowance I just gave him at school today. This isn’t news I want to hear when I’m in a good mood, let alone a terrible one.
So I yelled.
I let my emotions come over me as I sometimes do. I didn’t even let Jackson finish explaining to me the whole story as to why he would leave money laying around at his school. I didn’t care. He was careless with his money (a conversation that is not unfamiliar with these two kids), and I just didn’t want to hear any more of it. Before he ran upstairs in tears, he mumbled in broken words, “I knew you would be mad at me.”
And just like that, I’m a monster of a mom.
The wave of guilt washes over me because I just yelled at the sweetest human being I know. He is a kid, and he did something stupid; but I know that my reaction was fueled because I was already in a bad mood. And as I’m scooping dinner onto their plates I’m letting all of it sink in. I call the kids down and we silently eat dinner together. Lucy, being the only one of cheerful nature, is trying to have conversations with anyone who will engage. Jack and I are pulled away. We give quiet one-word answers. This all occurs to me and so I hide my face in my hands trying to pull myself together. I think I have succeeded until Lucy notices the tears starting to form but not yet fall from my eyes as I lift my head up.
“Mommy, your eyes are watery.”
“I know, baby. I’m ok.”
Except when I turn my head to the side and look out the kitchen window a tear escapes. And so I just stare out the window until I feel I can look my daughter in the face again without losing complete control of my emotions. That is, until Lucy breaks the silence….and my heart.
With real pain in her voice she bellows, “Mommy, you’re making me cry!”
If you could only hear how she said this to me. It was like she couldn’t understand why she was crying. It was as if she had absolutely no control over her emotions as well. She saw her mother sitting across the table trying (unsuccessfully) to fight back tears, and in that moment felt my pain in such a way that she was moved to tears.
It was a moment of empathy that we had never experienced with each other before. I mean, certainly I have hurt from her hurting, but it has never been the other way around.
I summoned her to my lap and I held her. And we cried.
It was the kind of crying where your chest jack hammers up and down with staccato-like breaths, and you force your eyes shut because no matter how hard you want to stop crying your body has different plans. Gently grabbing her face, I looked her in the eyes asked her why she was crying to which she replied, “I don’t know.”
But I know why. She’s my daughter. She is a direct extension of my being and this was further proof of it. In addition to my sassy attitude, easily tan-able skin, love of doughnuts, and dancing, Lucy has inherited my empathetic/extremely emotional nature. The latter has never occurred to me until this evening. Even with her sweet side I kind of always thought Lucy was just a sometimes-callous-baby-boss-lady who liked to pick on her big brother and get him in trouble whenever the opportunity presented itself. Tonight, she revealed in a somewhat involuntary way that she is capable of empathy (at the ripe old age of 6, I might add.)
This whole experience made me evaluate my emotional interactions with my kids. I’ve always tried to be very careful about not letting the kids see me cry. There were definitely times where I had to lie and say that “something was in my eye.” But now that they’re older and picking up on things they can tell when mommy is legitimately sad or upset about something. And to be quite honest, I don’t feel like lying to them about that stuff anymore. Am I going to tell them what I’m crying about? No. But I don’t think it’s the worst thing for them to see me sad. I don’t want my kids to grow up with unrealistic or unhealthy views of how to express themselves.
I have heard (and also believed) at one time that mothers need to continually put on a brave face in front of their kids. But jeez, don’t we have enough pressure as moms/parents? Now I have to be a robot that shows no emotion in front of my kids? I can’t.
I’m not saying I will have a full blown meltdown…(ok, excluding the one this blog post focuses on). But I have hard time believing that sheltering my kids from my emotions is actually doing more good than harm. Crying, sadness, frustration: those are all a part of life. If they don’t learn how to manage those feelings they are going to have a very hard time in this world. Crying is not unfamiliar to me in any situation. I am an extremely sentimental person. I freakin’ cried at an Applebee’s commercial for Christ’s sake. And no, I wasn’t pregnant at the time.
As a *proud* emotional person I have cried when I’m overly joyous, laughed too hard, become way too frustrated, and of course, when my heart hurts.
Contrary to popular and misguided belief, emotional people are not crazy people. Just ask my psychiatrist - (just kidding, lame joke).
I strongly believe emotional people have qualities that allow for living a better life.
Because emotional people are so in tune with our feelings, we know how to adjust our expectations.
We know how to read people.
Our intuition is on point.
We are deep thinkers, with deep hearts.
We can be our authentic selves. No suppression of who we are.
Empathy makes us feel. It's what makes us human.
It’s who I am. And I have learned to love this part of me.
Now don’t think for a second I forgot about Jackson. Because after I calmed Lucy down I motioned Jackson to sit on my lap and I apologized to him for yelling. He was still in trouble for having been so thoughtless with his money, but I should have toned the yelling down a bit. I owned up to it.
I always do.
I will always apologize after some time has passed for losing my temper. Even though I'm a strong proponent of feeling your feels, there is an appropriate way of expressing them. I know I don't always handle my emotions the way I should, but I recognize that and try to do better. I have always found it confusing when people are upset with you and then moments later pretend that nothing happened without some sort of acknowledgement for their anger; whether it is through an apology or just simply talking things out. So my approach is to always acknowledge my emotional reaction with the kids. It’s the easiest way to say “I’m over it, let’s move on. Mommy loves you.”
Naturally, in true sweetheart Jackson fashion, he apologized and said “I’m going to make it up to you, mom.”
To which I responded with a kiss on the forehead, a smile on my face, and the reassurance to him that everything is ok.