Why I Let My Kids Feel

Mami and Paulito
© Carolina Adame Photography

It is the perfect Saturday for a birthday party. In the central valley it can get pretty hot in the summer but today it is warm yet comfortable. I am sitting in the shade and I can feel a cool breeze as I wait for Vicky to take her turn to hit the piñata. Vicky gets her turn and I snap a few pictures for Paulo, who is away preparing to run the Santa Rosa marathon the next day. After Vicky is done hitting the piñata my inner conflict begins.

I know that at any minute the piñata is going to be broken and all of the kids are going to start the hurried rush for candy. Vicky is not extremely coordinated or fast so I know what will likely happen because we have been here before. The piñata is going to break and she is not going to get as many candies as the other kids. There will be disappointment, perhaps even tears. I can feel my anxiety growing as I begin to slide towards the edge of my chair. Do I go in and help her get candy or do I stay in my chair? Do I go? Do I stay?

So in that moment I decide to go inward. Why am I feeling this way? Where is this feeling coming from? Is it about me or is it about Vicky? I realize that I want to go in and help Vicky grab candy because I do not want her to feel the pain of disappointment. I want to save her from feeling embarrassed because she did not get as many candies as other kids. I realize that this is about my own discomfort with her feeling any pain; this is coming from my own sense of lack, as Dr. Shefali Tsabary would say. I take a deep breath and sit my butt all the way back into my chair. My husband and I decided a while ago that we are not going to keep our children from pain. Pain, disappointment, heartache, loss, grief. You name it, painful moments are inevitable and we are going to do our best to help our kids move through their feelings, not avoid them.

I am not sure exactly when we consciously made the decision to be “emotional coaches” for our children (a term we picked up somewhere). But in order to do it we knew it meant that we had to figure out how we deal with our own emotions in order to be able to coach our kids. I had to take a long hard look at myself and recognize that I did not know how to handle my own emotions sometimes. If I don’t know how to handle my own sadness, anger or pain, how can I help my child do it? I had to recognize that my discomfort with my children feeling emotions of sadness, pain and anger were directly related to my own discomfort with having those emotions. Oh my goodness this was going to be really hard!!!

Vicky Crying

So here is the short of it. In doing this work on myself I have realized that when I allow myself to go inward, when I am brave enough, when I allow my children to inspire me to do the hard work on myself, that is when I am really their guide on this planet. That is when I have allowed some of their purpose for being in my life to manifest. Now that I am more comfortable with my kids emotional pain I have seen that Victoria and Paulito are actually very willing to go through their emotions if I can just hold that space for them to do it. That is the magic.

A few weeks ago Vicky ran up the stairs crying. Her Lego princess castle that she and I had spent hours putting together had crashed onto the floor after Paulito bumped into it accidentally. She is sobbing as she tells me. Paulo is sitting next to me saying “its ok Vicky, we will rebuild it, you are fine.” As Vicky approaches me I just hug her. I tell her “Vicky you are so sad because your Lego’s fell huh? Yeah, you worked so hard putting them together.” And we just hug for about a minute. Then she looks up at me and says, “mami, will you help me put the Lego’s back together?” I say yes and just like that she is gone! No more tears. When I finally go down stairs to help with the Lego’s she has moved on to something else. I gave her feelings a name and let her move through the pain until she was ready to release it.

I have to tell you that this one practice has been a game changer for me. It literally feels like holy work sometimes and I feel such an inner peace when I nail it.

On another morning last week Paulito was really grumpy and yelling at his sister to “be quiet Vicky” as soon as we got in the car on our way to school. We are still in our garage and I turn around and tell him, “Paulito are you grumpy this morning? Sometimes I get grumpy in the morning when I am disappointed because something is off for me or I don’t do everything that I had planned for the morning”. Paulito thinks for a moment and then responds, “yeah, I’m grumpy. I am disappointed” and he proceeds to tell me why he is disappointed. Before we have even left our front gate he has already moved back into his normal self. In the past I would have just started with “Paulo, stop yelling at your sister!” and then he would have said “well tell Vicky to be quiet!” and we would have gone back and forth, had a miserable car ride to school and I would just be counting the seconds until they were both out of the car. Instead I gave his feelings a name and let him know that I could relate to them. Magic.

So as I write all of these wonderful examples of myself being able to be all in tune with my emotions and shit; it must make me sound pretty amazing (or a bit crazy) but let me also keep it real for just a moment. I mess it up all the time. This past weekend when I was able to be conscious enough to let Vicky feel the disappointment of not getting enough candies, well that same night I lacked a whole lot of consciousness and empathy when my kids did not want to say goodbye to their cousins after a long evening of playing with them and after I had already told them we were going to leave at 10pm and I went ahead and stayed until 11pm. I lacked empathy and yes, I yelled. I even got to my parents house where we spent the night and refused to carry Paulito who had fallen asleep in the car and said he was too tired to walk himself into the house. “Sure” I said, “now you are tired, 15 minutes ago you had all the energy in the world to keep playing with your cousins and now you are too tired?” Nope. I would not carry him. No magic there.

The reality is that sometimes I nail the landing and sometimes I just don’t but I re-commit myself on a daily basis to let my children feel and to continue to do the hard work of growing myself up! I hope that this has given you a few things to think about. How comfortable are you with your own feelings? With your kids feelings? Does this connect with you in any way? I would love to read your thoughts below. Please leave a comment or comment on our Facebook page. As always, feel free to share our blog post if you think it would be valuable to another parent and subscribe to our newsletter! Lastly, thank you for allowing us to continue to be a part of your parenting evolution.

With Gratitude,

Yesenia