We’ve reached that time of the year when the dregs of summer meet the back-t0-school insanity and most days of the week I feel like I’ve been through the emotional wringer and hung out to dry. The stress of meetings, starting up activities, filling out the same form with the same information over and over (except that you have to look up the phone numbers for your emergency contact, doctor, and dentist over and over because you can never remember to write that shit down!), paying fees, and resuming homework has left me absolutely exhausted this week.
I had high hopes of getting back in a routine, finally feeling efficient again, cleaning my house, making meal plans and grocery lists, and (gasp) even going back to the gym! Then on Day 2 of the “new/old routine,” both kids were home sick. The house isn’t disgusting, but it’s not clean. I’ve made a few meals. I did zero exercise. I haven’t done any work at home at all. I’ve taken a nap, driven to three doctors appointments, two pharmacies, and taught three days worth of classes. I’m fried.
Whenever the cocktail of obligations results in a perfect storm of stress and anxiety for me, I tend to collapse. The last time you heard from me (yeah, I’ve been a terrible blogger. This is the longest I’ve ever gone without blogging. Sorry about that. Epic “How to rock Disneyland with kids” post forthcoming.), I was freaking out on a road trip and writing about what it means to be a highly emotional mother.
So, about that. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about emotionality lately, because of my aforementioned temperament and the fact that both of my kids seem to be following in my feeling-footsteps. I got so many positive, helpful comments after my “highly emotional mom” post, but the most significant was as follows:
I grow weary of the way the word emotional has become a bad thing. You know, “she is so emotional” is never meant as a compliment. When someone says it to me I never have an urge to say “Oh, thank you so much!” . . . Let’s start a new trend to make ’emotional’ a compliment.
I think there’s big wisdom there. I agree that “too emotional” has become a derisive term, and those of us who are extra sensitive and emotional often feel apologetic about that trait. What a great idea– let’s take back the term and make emotional a compliment.
One of my favorite memories of this summer was taking my children to see the movie “Inside Out.” If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. I think it’s absolutely brilliant and I applaud the way it integrates the importance of emotional intelligence and honoring all of our feelings. I knew my oldest daughter– now nine– would appreciate it and enjoy it, but I was absolutely unprepared for how my youngest daughter would react. (We loved seeing the characters in the Disneyland parade, too…)
At three-and-a-half, I thought she would enjoy the brightly colored, engaging characters. I didn’t know that she would grasp the emotional component. But boy, did she ever. If you haven’t seen the movie, I’d skip over this part– spoiler alert! During the scene where Bing Bong, um, “went away,” my daughter turned to me, her face crumpled, and we sobbed together, consumed by sadness. She wasn’t frightened or disturbed, she was simply sad.
Watching the movie, I was brought back into touch with this tendency I have to deeply mourn the passing of time. When “Goofball Island” went down, a lump rose in my throat. As parents, we have the perspective to know that many of our children’s “islands” will sink, that by nature, it is their purpose to sink and give birth to new “islands.” And yet I already mourn the incarnation of my daughter that implores, “Mommy, can you do me a flavor?” and merrily exclaims, “Yet’s go!”
As the first island collapsed, my little daughter turned to me tearfully and said, “I’m worried that all the towers are going to sink!” She and I sobbed for the loss of Bing Bong, the inevitable growing up that happens, this ever-present knowledge that causes her to occasionally lament her own growing-up, to cry that she wants to ride in her carseat forever. Watching Inside Out, my preschooler understood the concept of loss, experienced sadness, and for one flicker of a moment her little soul aligned with mine as together we grasped the transient nature of her childhood, we witnessed and mourned it together.
The overriding theme of this movie, fraught with highs and lows and all the accompanying emotions, is that “It’s OK to be sad.” In fact, it’s OK to feel all your feelings. I adored Inside Out for the way it honored and highlighted the “undervalued” feelings like anger, disgust, fear, and sadness. These are all part of our emotional experience, and it’s difficult for us to teach our children this when as adults, we often want to banish these “unpleasant” feelings from our inner landscape.
This spring and summer I took an amazing class about mindfulness. It went so far beyond mindfulness and meditation, though, and I was surprised to learn that one of my favorites parts of the class was about mindfulness of emotion, and working with emotions in the body. There is another session of this course, Brilliant Mindful YOU, starting next week, and I highly recommend it to anyone considering a mindfulness or meditation practice, and also to those of you (us) who might benefit from some emotional mindfulness work.
Being mindful of our emotions means that we learn to become aware of them, to recognize them, and not to be threatened by them or try to banish them. We learn not to judge our emotional states so harshly, and to cope with the emotions that we find challenging. If you’d like to register for Brilliant Mindful YOU, you can learn more about it and enroll here. It begins next week, so hurry! (*Disclaimer: I am an affiliate for this course now, which means if you register here I get a commission. However, I adored the class, and I believe it is absolutely valuable and enriching.)
It’s so difficult for us to teach our children to accept all of their feelings if we ourselves are ashamed of them. So rather than letting my “hard emotions” sweep me away as we transition from summer to fall, as I watch both my babies turn another year older, I’m learning to become aware of my feelings and work with them. I won’t let them run away with me, but I’m not going to apologize for them or try to hide them either. I love my feelings: from my sadness at watching babyhood melt off my children to overwhelm at a new school year to absolute elation at Disneyland, my feelings make me ME.
I’ll be back again soon with an epic Disneyland post. Meanwhile, sign up to receive posts by email and follow Mommy, for Real on Facebook!
Thank you for finding time to blog for us during these crazy first weeks of school! I have a “sensitive” and “emotional” son (who takes after his mom), and I must say his capacity for empathy and compassion is astounding. I remember years ago his first grade teacher telling me he’s too sensitive. Said teacher had the emotional intelligence of a twig, so I didn’t put much stock in it.
I appreciated your post. I just read such a poignant chapter in Nora Ephron’s book I Remember Nothing called the D word and it made me feel better about embracing my sadness and loss and anger from divorce because it will not always be the defining force of my adult life. And reminded me to be happy about everything in life. Even my failures, because the overarching theme is love for four great kiddos. Whoops I think I rambled… Welcome to check out my blog sometime too, although it’s not nearly as great as yours!
Stephanie, great post and you have a very insightful little girl. I don’t think my four combined got a fraction of what your daughter did from the movie. I’m reading Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong. I think you’d like it. She talks about owning our feelings, and the roles that guilt and shame play in our feelings.
Oh, I love this. I also adored Inside Out and the way that sadness actually led the way at the end. I’m happy to see the goal of making “so emotional” a compliment. Amen.
My 5yo just started kindergarten so I’m totally behind in my blog reading but am so glad I’ve read this one. I definitely have difficulty with “negative” emotions, and of all the parenting challenges, teaching my daughter how to deal with emotions fills me with the most anxiety. And, wow, has this been an anxiety producing two weeks with the new routine, new people/teachers/aftercare, etc. As for Inside Out, it was excellent, what I saw of it! As those islands started sinking, Zoe just couldn’t take it. The fear overwhelmed her and we had to leave. I tried to reassure her while also acknowledging it was okay to be sad but she just wanted out and no thanks on the teachable moment! Have no idea if i handled it right. Sometimes I wish I could still be graded so I’d know how I was doing as a mom.
first of all, I missed your posts! Second, I loved the movie too. And, I’ve been working on my own emotions lately with a therapist, and let me tell you, it’s work. REAL work that is important. I have realized that modeling healthy emotions for my children is essential too. And, I think even I have labeled my emotionality as a bad thing instead of being grateful for it. Great post!