“What’s it like living with five women?” a friend asked The Engineer one afternoon on the side of the soccer field.
“There are a lot of feelings. Big ones. And lots of talking about these feelings.”
Wise words, dear husband. And those big ones tend to come from one child in particular.
My first-born is my clone, in all the good ways, and in all the not as appealing ways. It’s tough to see reflections of yourself in your child. Whenever I look at her, it’s as if I’m shipped back in time to the awkward, unsettled feelings that were the hallmark of my youth. I can remember the same emotions, boiling up in my chest, and trying ever so hard to figure out where to place them.
Even as an adult, I’m still trying to figure out what to do with my feelings. I tend towards the bottled up end of things, at least currently, purely out of fatigue. As if I think keeping things to myself will in any way right a frustrating situation. My clone, however, doesn’t follow that pattern.
Her feelings are big. B.I.G. There is no other adjective to describe it. Whether it is a fight with a sister or being left out of a group or disliking what I made for dinner, she feels it to the core and with every fiber of her being. And, simply by our proximity to her, the rest of our family feels it too.
I should also mention that her meltdowns usually occur when we are all at our worst. So, my responses aren’t the best, especially when I couple it with the nostalgic view of my childhood self. It’s quite the experience to have your worst former self come face to face with your worst current self!
Talking About Our Feelings
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We needed resources to teach our girl to articulate her feelings in a manner that wouldn’t lead to an Oscar nomination. I also needed an opportunity to turn the mirror back on myself, and realize how my own display of emotions might be fuel for her fire.
I found the greatest success reflecting her feelings back to her and offering solutions, Psychology 101 style.
“You are feeling frustrated. How can I help?”
“You are angry with your sister. Would it help to take some space from her?”
“You really want to go to sleep away camp. How can you work on your swimming skills this year so that we know you will be safe while you are away?”
One book was a home run for Laura Claire. She was dying to contribute to my writing, so she penned the report below:
The Feelings Book is a great book for girls of all ages. Some things you learn are how to feel positive, your feelings at different times, and thinking smart. It helped me learn that I am not alone in the way I feel.
Simply giving school age children the language to articulate what they feel can be a very helpful tool. And modeling the awareness you want them to develop can be positive, though, not the easiest skill to develop. I am certainly a work in progress (emphasis on the work and less on the progress).
What to Do When the Feelings Get BIG
Picture your feelings like you are in a car. You can’t shove them in the trunk, but they shouldn’t be behind the wheel, or even riding shotgun. Buckle them into the back seat.
This is paraphrased from a speaker on The God Centered Mom. The picture has resided with my older two girls, especially with the daughter who lets the feelings drive the car, at rather high speeds, all the time. We have talked quite a bit about which feelings get to live in the front seat (pain over a wrong committed or someone being hurt) verses those that need to reside rear-facing in the third row (a dramatic breakdown over spilling orange juice prior to 7am).
Another child of ours shoves it all in the trunk. Which, from a daily life perspective, is rather convenient. At least, until it all explodes. More on that another day!
Finding their Creative Outlet
Just last week, upon listening to a phenomenal podcast, I came across a great quote from one of my favorite speakers:
“Unused creativity isn’t benign… it metastasizes.”
~ Brene Brown
I think, most of the time, my first born really just wants to be heard. She wants to drown out the noise of her three little sisters, and for once, not be the responsible one who just helps Mom out all the time. She wants to feel validated, important, and valued, and in our daily chaos, displaying her feelings in a big manner might be the only way she gets heard.
I have high hopes for a theater residency camp this summer. Laura Claire is already picturing herself, up on that stage, putting all her creativity and emotion out for the world to see. I can’t think of a better outlet. Certainly better than hiring an agent, which is her Plan B.