I listened to my friend. We laughed and cried over the revelation: if we don’t put our reality off on our kids they will be ok.
Her story is not an easy one. Her husband died suddenly six weeks ago, leaving her with a five year-old son and a seven year-old son.
It was their last day of school and they were running late. She didn’t want to take the time to change the car seats from her husband’s car, so, even though the engine light had been coming on, she said to herself It will be ok; it’s been ok. They drove through the “drive-through” for breakfast and the car died. No sound accompanied attempts to start, so she got someone to jump start it and started off down the street.
It died again, and she thought, Why didn’t I just stay at the drive through? Now I’m in the middle of the street!
She called her brother-in-law, he was working out. So she resigned herself to the half-hour it will take AAA to get there.
She is trying to calm herself when she hears,
“Mama, are you crying?”
“No, no, I’m fine,” she reassures. “We just have to wait for the tow-truck.”
They are ecstatic! “You mean we get to ride in a tow truck?”
“Yes, you will get to ride in a tow-truck today. We just have to wait for him to get here.”
They are jubilant, talking to each other about their great luck–they “have never ridden in a tow truck before!”
They wait, he comes, and they finally get to school full of wonderful stories of adventure for their friends.
She gets my message to come and have breakfast on my patio, this gorgeous, spring morning. And she comes. We laugh and cry as we eat and she relates the happenings of her day. To her it was the “last straw” of already straining emotions. What else? How am I ever going to do this? How will it ever be ok again?
I commended her for not spilling all of her feelings onto her children, who were clearly just in the moment as children are. Every day, every moment is a new adventure. And I saw clearly–more clearly than I ever have–why it is so important for parents to contain emotion, to manage their feelings.
Yes, do be honest, and do let children have truth, but why should they carry adult emotions too heavy for them? When they miss him, they cry, and sometimes they talk about it. They watch movies of him at night and laugh and cry.
But too often a child’s world is contaminated by adult perspective: heavy, hopeless, gray; or loud scary, angry; when it wouldn’t need to be if we would contain it and share it with other adults who care and understand, even a therapist if there is no one else.
Why should we ruin their lives because we can’t manage our emotions? And sometimes it does.