Tonight I cuddled with two sad kids in different bedrooms, going back and forth to assuage their worries. Every good parent has been there, at that point in which he or she hopes to say just the right thing to make things better. You choose your words carefully on nights like tonight.
For my daughter, who is sensitive and a worrier, emphasizing that some things are out of our control – especially the behavior of others – might seem counterintuitive, but I think she’s a little relieved to have been reminded. She’s happy to take that burden off of her giant heart. No 11-year-old girl should carry that.
For my son, who experienced his first real panic attack complete with shortness of breath, a rapid heartbeat, and uncontrollable gulping tears, it was trying to convince him that he is powerful and capable.
“My brain is making me feel weird, though.”
“It’s when your worries turn sad. It’s not a bad thing. It just means you’re not hiding from your feelings. You’re brave.”
Power has been his topic of choice a lot lately. Power is his biggest wish. He feels hopeless and helpless at times, as we all do, but this particular 11-year-old is feeling it a lot lately.
For both these kids, who are learning to navigate a world that holds them accountable when they feel so little (and, yet, at the same time so old…), it’s reminding them that they are loved by me right now and forever, no matter what else is happening. It’s backrubs and hand massages for my girl, and it’s big, tight hugs for my boy. It’s telling them over and over that the one thing I know for sure is that I will love them forever and protect them when they can’t protect themselves. It’s reminding them that I always want them to do their best, but that I understand that on some days their best is fantastic and on other days it’s the ability to breathe without crying. It’s reminding them of how special they are and that the world needs them…