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Thursday, March 1, 2012

the age of innocence

We have entered unchartered territory here in the June household. Ah, parenting. Just when you have it "figured out" (what for a week maybe? HA) it changes up on you and your "AH HA!" moment becomes, once again, a "HUH?" moment.

You know those moments, right?

So we are driving home the other day from our beloved farm (owned by my parents, not me sadly, HA) and little man says suddenly that one of his beloved aunts "thinks I AM totally a DUMMY." What? I said. No, honey, she sure doesnt.

Suddenly I was aware of this new age of self-doubt, these big huge emotions. Maybe it had been there before and I just hadnt noticed? A few days later he asks why dada was frustrated with him the day before. You could tell he had been mulling it over. Trying to understand with this new self-awareness why dad would be upset for jumping all over him at 7am after he had worked a late shift at the restuarant. GET UP. PLAY WITH ME. "Mom," he says, full of sadness, "I think dad thinks I am a dummy."

He has always been a very perceptive kid. Picking up on stress that I tried to hide from him when dada was still in law school, money was tight, and clients were few and far between. Eyes following us back and forth when we have one of those dreaded Saturday morning "conversations." (You know because when he says why are you arguing we say "its just a conversation" - about why dad gets to sleep in or where we should go for lunch, etc - so now he totally calls arguing with his sister a "conversation" as in "We are having a conversation about who gets to play with the red balloon," HA HA. Er. Umm. OOPS.) But now he sees it, and reflects it on himself. What does this mean? And, did I cause it? And, how does it reflect on who I am? And finally, the question we are all still trying to figure out, what do I DO with all these emotions?

And I wonder, what am I showing him, in terms of self-awareness and love of that precious self? What am I teaching him about navigating emotional life?

How do we teach our kids to love themselves, to deal with their own emotions despite that world's problems, despite how others are feeling, despite situations that come up that make us disappointed? The only answer, I suppose, is to model it for them. That this is what life is, full of ups and downs, and big huge feelings. And it is okay.

This one is tough for me. I too often take other people's stress, reactions to me, interactions with me, and turn them into my own negative emotions, and then, I reflect them on myself. A new friend suddenly doesnt seem as enthusiastic about our relationship. A relative makes a snarky comment. Dada sends a text that sounds like he doesnt care about the trivial things in my day. A work colleague belittles your work. A boss seems impatient.

How do we react? Do we drink it in? Make it our own? Are we able to say, oh, that is THEIR issue, here is how I think about it? Oftentimes, not.

And then these new depths of emotions. How do we handle them? He has this new bear claw stomping routine he does when he is mad now, pounding through the house, arms out, claws out, growling and yelling at the world.

I look at him and think. Yea, I feel like that sometimes too.

And you know, it IS okay.

Because, like I said, we are a lot alike. I am also perceptive. Obscenely so at times. And I have a terrible poker face. I absorb other people's emotions, claim them as my own. I feel things deeply, my emotions swing back and forth like a pendulum. I know this about myself. I have struggled over this for years. It takes effort to sort through it, and sometimes I dont work at it enough, but I need to, for the sake of the little faces looking up at me. Watching me. Every move. How will I react? Are emotions this big okay Mama? What do I do with all of this Mama?

"Mama, I just have to tell you something." I sigh. I am sitting at my desk, emailing contacts, sorely disappointed that my week-long getaway in the sun will not work out. And I have to confess I had been storming around all morning, a picture of doom and gloom. "What is it little man? I am trying to get some things done." He looks at me with big brown eyes, the picture of empathy. "Mama, I love you."

And there he was, that little perceptive guy, giving me love back when I needed it. Reminding me that emotions are okay. We can rage when our sister knocks down our tower, when our week in the sun may not happen, when we feel like our aunties think we are dummies. And we can love each other through it. It is okay to feel it all, and in a big way, but, through it all, know that you, my dear lovely boy, are NOT a dummy. You mama, are NOT a dummy. Right?

And obviously, I dont have it figured out. How to teach him this, because its called being human, and its what we do, learn to navigate the emotions of this life, relationship, self-love, what to think and how to feel about what other people think and feel. We really do teach each other, in this crazy adventure called parenting, dont we? Mama and boy. Together learning. And loving.

What a journey!


  1. Beautiful post, Sara. You are so right: what a journey, what a challenge, what they have to teach us!

  2. Oh, Sara, the photo studies are fantastic! All the emotions are expressed, and you are a master at capturing them via the camera. Maybe you missed your calling - should be a child portrait artist!.....great insights you have! luv, g'ma MHGJ

  3. Aw, this is so hard. You are so right that just when you think you have something figured out, there's a new development. I have a lot of friends going through some similar things. I struggle with this issue, too. No answers here, just support.


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