Children rely on our support and guidance in navigating the emotional ups and downs of life. Developing emotional intelligence takes time and is an ongoing journey for every human being. And yet our children sometimes also surprise us with delightful expressions of emotional health and capacity.
Over the past few months I have witnessed a few of those and find myself heartened every time I ponder them. I’d like to share some of them with you in a three-part blog series. May these vignettes encourage you too. May they inspire you. And help you notice the gems that may be happening right in front of you.
Here’s the first one:
A family friend visited us over a long weekend with his 5-year old son. The days were filled with goodness… circus on the trampoline, running through sparkling water arcs created by a handheld hose, satisfying campfire meals, shared reading on the couch, swimming, giggling, exploring, chatting… And, as all visits do, this one eventually came to a close.
Leading up to their departure, the young lad expressed several times that he really didn’t feel like leaving. We acknowledged how hard it can be to step away from such a grand time, and reflected with him how much fun we all had together.
On the morning of their departure, he did what children do so beautifully. He lived in the moment, drank up each bit of the visit still present… from enjoying breakfast, to picking flowers for his mama, from running around with our puppy to eventually giving us each a sweet hug before climbing into the car.
During their shared morning drawing session, my daughter had made him a little card to look at once he and his dad would be driving. She told me she had made this to help him pass the time and bridge the farewell. He clutched it tightly as he followed his father, who gave him all the time he needed to climb through the back hatch, as was his preference, and was fastened into his car seat.
Then, as we stood by the car, we saw him look at the card, we noticed his bottom lip begin to tremble, tears welling up in his eyes. We could see the flood of sadness rolling through him, even as he looked at us and waved. We stood there as his papa turned the car around, we waved and blew kisses, as did he, through blurry eyes and with trembling lip. Not once did he turn away. He hadn’t resisted getting in the car when it was time to go. He remained fully engaged, heart soft and open, present with the mix of strong feelings. He also didn’t cover the sadness with anger, or hide from us to protect his vulnerable self.
I was so impressed. Touched. What a brave little lad. What a fine example of emotional intelligence at work. And how simply healthy and good that was… for him to feel what was going on in the moment, mixed feelings and all, to be held lovingly and gently by his father, to be able to express so honestly and vulnerably, to be acknowledged in his feelings and given freedom to roam and choose within parameters that remained unchangeable (they still left, the visit didn’t get prolonged).
Thank you to his parents — you know who you are — for raising a boy with such capacity to feel, to express, and to move onward and forward. My heart melts a little every time I think of him. And I am encouraged every time I think of parents around the world raising lads (and lassies) with their sensitivity and courage intact.
I’ll be sharing the second vignette in this three-part series in a few days.
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First posted in the Huffington Post: October 8,