Here’s the second vignette from my three-part blog series about delightful expressions of emotional health and capacity in children, ones that surprise and hearten us amidst the journey of helping them develop emotional intelligence (you can read the first one here>):
It’s a golden late summer’s day. My daughter — 11 now — steps on a lazy wasp while playing with a bundle of kittens she is fostering from the local animal shelter. Startled by the immediate and powerful sensation of pain zipping through her foot, she tries to shake it off, and gets stung a second time.
She bursts out crying, tears streaming. Still holding the kittens, she finds comfort in her father’s arms. There is a full blast eruption and release for about 30 seconds. Then quiet. Then a deep breath.
“Wow. That was intense!” she says.
She takes another deep breath, uncurls from her papa’s embrace, and gets back to playing with her kittens, as if nothing had happened to disrupt the play in the first place.
Witnessing this, my husband and I are struck by the quick flow — experience and related feeling moving through with raw intensity, the full release, allowing for a new moment to emerge.
Sometimes our children are ‘up-to-date’ with their emotions — the mellow and the intense ones — not repressing nor indulging in them, but simply able to let them pass through and integrate as they arise. Held and comforted as needed during stormy ones, they don’t layer one emotion on top of the other. When the storm erupts — be it a sadness, a frustration, an upset on any kind — it is in relation to that specific moment and experience, rather than an outlet for a whole pile-up of feelings that need expressing.
If our child cries more than we sense is warranted by a current experience (be this a physical tumble or an emotional hurt), it could be that some stored-up feelings are finding release. Knowing of this possibility can help us hold and comfort our child, as well as find meaning in simply being present until it is all out and a sense of calm returns. Sometimes as our children grow up and try to make sense of themselves and the world, feelings get tucked away, bumps seem to be overcome, but they are still there, just under the surface. Tears are such a wonderful way to let those backed-up “rivers” flow, and bring them back to integration and present time.
And then there’s us parents and adults. How “up-to-date” are we with our emotional expression and integration? How many feelings have we layered on top of each other? It is never too late to let the emotional “rivers” that have been dammed, flow. It is never too late to let go of old stories that we indulge in and flood our emotional “rivers” with. As we continue to grow into our own emotional brilliance, we can more fully hold space for our children’s emotional development. The two are intimately interwoven.
Here’s to being present to the full intensity of each emotional storm without identifying with it. Feeling fully. Deep breath. Wow, that was intense. Onward.
May we celebrate the times our children express full-bodied feeling, healthy release and onward movement. May we be present and patient with them when their tears take longer to source and flow, and have become entangled with earlier experiences. May we help them grow up with courageous, sensitive hearts.
I’ll be sharing the third vignette in this three-part series in a few days.
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Posted: October 10,