What A Feeling
By Cheryl Hansen
My son turned 10 this weekend. We had a cool party planned for Saturday—rock climbing, cupcakes, friends, fun. He’d been looking forward to it for a month. I was excited, too. I was pretty sure I’d hit this one out of the park, awarding myself the mother-of-the-year award before the day was even upon us.
The day before the big day sadly didn’t go well for my still-9-year-old. He was super emotional, quick to melt down at minor setbacks (like missing 1 on a spelling test) and downright pessimistic about everything—including his pending party. “It’s going to be the worst birthday ever,” he said more than once.
Ouch. I felt my best-mother crown slipping. I was worried, bummed and more than a little annoyed. How dare he have a negative thought about a day I’d put so much effort into making great? I tried desperately to help him shed the funk. His teacher tried. I may have expressed a little of my irritation (which—surprise!—didn’t help). It took me way too long to realize that his sour mood was just a cover for some serious anxiety about the party. But at 9-almost-10, he didn’t have the ability to look inside and figure out what was really bugging him.
I’m not sure I do either, and I have a few decades on him. But I think it has something to do with this: the only way out is through. He not only had to acknowledge what was really going on, he had to give himself permission to feel his feelings.
Imagine that. Allowing ourselves to feel. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself fighting tears on my yoga mat—usually in a half pigeon pose. These unwelcome emotions come out of nowhere usually—with no note attached. The nerve! And while I’m sniffling and trying to figure out how in the world I’m going to leave the studio without ugly crying, the teacher quietly informs us that the pose can bring up some deep feelings. “Don’t fight it, feel it.”
I suspect that I’m not alone in pushing negative thoughts back, back, back because there’s just no time to deal with them. There are emails to send, refrigerators to clean, awesome parties to plan. But damn if those thoughts don’t cop a squat and hang out until we’re ready to deal with them, until we’re ready to feel them. And while I may not fall apart after my spelling test (or the grown-up equivalent), you can bet those thoughts affect me in other decidedly unhealthy ways (sugar).
Turns out, we can all learn something from a grumpy almost 10-year-old.