Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Big feelings.

Our household is boiling over with big feelings this week. It should come as no surprise that beneath the excitement of our trip, and finally meeting our son/baby brother, we are each struggling with some less-than-happy feelings. Complicated feelings. Miss A described them as "purple feelings".

For Sean and I, the big feelings are expressed through spurts of manic activity. For instance: on Monday I decided we absolutely could not go to Korea unless I cleaned and organized our hall closet. Obviously. We keep our hands moving so that we don't have to listen to the nagging worries in our heads. We act like we have it together because we *have* to have it together--for the kids.

The kids, blessed creatures, are free to wear their big feelings on their sleeves. And they have, in impressive ways.

Yesterday was supposed to be Field Day at school and Miss A had a very specific idea of what the required dress code should look like. The knee-length shorts that I picked out for her (to protect a healing patch of poison ivy rash) did not fit her definition. And we battled over it. And I saw her frustration mounting, and I saw anxiety taking her over. Instead of insisting "Put on the shorts--no argument. I am the adult here." (or some related directive) I put down the shorts and wrapped her in my arms. I asked if she was nervous that she would get into trouble if she didn't wear shorter shorts, and she nodded her head. I offered to write a note for her to give to her gym teacher, explaining the wardrobe choice; would that help her to feel less nervous? Yes it would. At that point her anxious little body softened in my arms and the angry tears turned into just straight up tears. I said "It's hard to be seven, isn't it?" and she said "It's hard to be seven when everything is changing!" She talked, I listened.

(It's hard to be 36 when everything is changing, too.)

Sweet Bubs is usually harder to read, but this week he has made it very clear that his feelings are muddled. During the day he is loud, clumsy, quick to argue with his sister. None of these traits are his norm. At bedtime he becomes softer and quieter; for the past several nights he has skipped reading Harry Potter with his dad and sister. Instead he walks up to me and says "Mom, can I invite you snuggle?" We cuddle up together and he tells me about his day and burrows his head into my neck.

Yesterday a friend generously offered to have Sweet Bubs over for a playdate after school. When I went to pick him up he was like a different child: angry, crossing boundaries, not following any directions I gave him. It was a struggle to get him out of the friends' house and I was pretty embarrassed. On our evening walk he brought a toy sword and furiously whacked at every signpost we passed. This morning he told me he had nightmares, but didn't want to talk about them.

I tell him I love him, he will always be my boy. I tell him I am a little nervous about our trip; is he nervous too? He doesn't answer.  I hug him and rub his back.

Big feelings can be scary feelings. Scary feelings can creep in when you least expect it. It can be surprising to feel sad, angry, or worried about something that everyone else tells you is a happy event. I get it son; I really, really do.


  1. Awesome. This is so touching and true. I'm very happy for you as you continue your journey.

  2. Oh Nora. You nailed it. I wish so badly I had looked harder for those purple feelings in my kids before we left. I was too busy being manic mommy! The purple feelings sure bubbled up in them in Korea and we each had our meltdown moments. I call it our trip of highs and lows. We are now at a great spot as a family...but it took lots of purple feelings to get there!

    Much love!

  3. Nora, yes, Yes, and YES! Purple feelings. That sums it up. If only I could walk around whacking at things because I feel like doing that too. So at night, when my husband asks what's wrong, I can rattle off a list, a never-ending list, but then I stop and say, "mostly I'm just tired, and I need to snuggle".