Honest · washington whimsy

Lessons from a two year olds emotional vocabulary

The week after I came home from camp was an emotional week, work was tough, personal life was tough and lonely and I really had no clue what to do or what I needed. Which, was of course, what everyone was asking me.
But I didn’t know how to ask for help, or what I was feeling or how I could feel better. 

Last week, oddly enough, was also my one year of working at the Y. One year of working with the wacky group of humans I work with, and with the tiny humans  I adore. And with all of my lack of emotional vocabulary last week, I thought of them and the fact that when they are frustrated, excited, impatient, or really, any emotion they can’t really do much about it but scream, yell, hit someone, bite someone or throw themselves on the ground and shut out the world. 
Wouldn’t that be nice?

I spend most of my day saying, “I’m sorry you are feeling frustrated” or “do you see when you bite your friend it makes them sad? Can we try saying ‘more space please?'” Or of course watching a two year old throw a tantrum and saying “I see that you are angry, let’s move to the cozy corner so your body stays safe!”

I am trying to give these kids something to grab onto. My pet peeve quickly became hearing someone tell a child that they were “ok”. Because how would you like it if you were crying and sad and upset and someone came over an told you that you were ok? If you don’t have words to verbalize how you are feeling, then how in the world when someone know if they are ok.

And I also get it’s a fine line.

I am probably going to be one of the first to sit across from you and listen to what’s going on in your head and heart. And text you the next day. And help wheedle out the lies. But I am also probably going to be the first one to tell you to put on your big girl panties and dive head first into what’s going on. I can clearly see where you are and where you ACTUALLY are and I want to do everything in my power to get you there

And then of course, there is myself.  

There was a moment, the Sunday after I got home from camp, that I sat in my room and silently sobbed. It wasn’t violent or painful–just exhausted and weary. And I didn’t know why. And that seemed to be my reprieve the rest of the week. Silent tears over many places of the week. Dealing with the anniversary of a death of a loved one, feeling gut wrenchingly lonely. Feeling completely and utterly unsuccessful at work. It all continued to pile on.

I wanted to run.

I had been too much before. Too sensitive. More trouble then good. Memories of losing friends over depression ran rampant in my head.

At some point between 2 years old and now,we’ve been told to limit ourselves because we might be too much. 
And while, yes, we need to not thrust our emotions upon someone, we also need to learn how to land and identify them so they are no longer scary. There is a scene in the beginning of my favorite (not) guilty pleasure show where the main human character realizes that the new guy in town is actually a 140 year old vampire.  And like most shows that deal with the supernatural; after the initial shock wears off, she (albeit probably stupidly) decides it doesn’t matter.  Because once it is labeled it isn’t unknown anymore.

And that’s why I try to label things for my sweet kids. Because one day, they will be adults, sitting on the edge of their bed, crying and I want instilled in them from the beginning that they aren’t too much, that they can label how they feel and they can use it to better what’s in front of them.

I tell them so often to “give themselves space.” (And sometimes teacher Meg also gives herself some space) I want my kids to know that taking a breath is ok. That being sad, or mad, or frustrated is ok–we just need to be able to say that we are those things. Because if you don’t eventually being happy, excited or joyful, also won’t register. We have to take the bad with the good and the good with the bad. We can’t just label the joy and the happy and pretend that everything  else is no man’s land.

I’d like to say that I waited to write this because I had an ephinany or I suddenly feel 100% better. But the reality is, I am still learning and grabbing onto things and putting my hair up in a bun and grabbing some lacroix and doing the damn thing daily. 

Because I also want my kids to know that life doesn’t stop. There are still people you have to show up for in the midst of showing up for yourself.

Let’s do this folks. Let’s have a little more grace, space and verbage then we did last week. Let’s practice telling the two year olds in our lives that they aren’t too much.

Let’s remind ourselves we aren’t too much, even when all we want to do is bite a friend.      

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One thought on “Lessons from a two year olds emotional vocabulary

  1. When my little human gets frustrated, I ask him, “do you need help?” He answers, “yes”! So, I help him. Very simple and the problem is solved. You should try it.

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