Growing up with a parent who had died provided a healthy dose of perspective. Meaning, anything bad that happened in my life was never that bad. It sounds dark and twisty, but in reality I think this is one of the aspects of myself I am most proud of as an adult. For every anxious meltdown I have or depressive episode that occurs, I am able to refocus my attention on all in my life that is good, and turn myself around to continue working on joy. So far, this has kept me on track, mostly happy, and to this point, mostly off prescription drugs. I never say never, but so-far, so pill-free.
Yesterday, my Middle One had a serious attack of The Monday. He started the day upset over a perceived injustice at an awards’ ceremony and ended it in a full on lather over the inequity caused by a mishandled town baseball team.
In both cases, I did my best to provide my son with perspective. In the case of the award I reminded him how deserving the winner was while also commending him for his efforts which were still great, even if he didn’t catch what he thought was the ultimate prize. At baseball, I quickly sympathized with the feeling one gets when a bad coach nearly ruins a good sport. (Been there, done that.) Then, in both cases, I tried to point out all that was good about both school and sports and talk him out of his continued pity spiral so he could go on with his day.
Both times I drove away, back to work, fretting over whether I had allowed him to feel enough. Sure, it’s important to focus on all that is good, but not if it means ignoring the feelings that are bad. After all, every time I refocus on the positive in my life I have typically melted down into a full two or three choruses of Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen. I don’t often wrap others up in my Whoa is Me moments, but they exist and they have a full sound track. Trust me.
The funny thing is, in both cases I wanted nothing more than to pick him up and carry him home for a good snuggle on the couch. Maybe that would have been best. I certainly would have liked it better. But instead I chose to provide the perspective I got when I was four. The one that reminds me that while this is tough, life is mostly good so let’s move on and get back to living.
In the end, he had a great time at baseball. I got a report from the babysitter that because he saw his friends from soccer at the tryout too, it was great (talk about perspective). When I got home late last night, the award that he did win was proudly hung on the bulletin board, so I suspect he’s found his way out of that too. Neither of these things stopped me from curling up next to him in bed and whispering into his ear how fine it is to feel bad, how he was right to be upset and how no matter what, I would be there in the morning to help sort it all out if he wanted.
I’m not sure he heard me but at least I said my peace. My fingers were crossed that those are the words that seeped into his dreams, not the ones about how long he should or shouldn’t feel. Next time, I may just give him more time to hurt before I push him toward perspective. I just hope I get another chance, even though it means he might have to be disappointed.
I once heard parenting described as wearing your heart on the outside. Mine broke twice yesterday, so I think that description is pretty spot-on. Good thing I can refocus on all the ways it also swells with pride and joy or I may try to stuff my heart back inside.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.