Here I am, wringing a second post out of my daughter’s recent bike accident; making it about me and seeing things about myself I’d rather not look at …
Once I knew my daughter wasn’t seriously injured in her bike accident, I found myself feeling embarrassed by her loud and uncontrolled expression of pain and terror.
Ava is a fantastic wailer – she cries and screams with abandon. And with an impressive disregard for what others think of her during her release of emotions.
When do we learn to care too much about other people’s opinion of us? When does that insidiousness begin?
When Ava was an infant, my husband and I decided one of our primary parenting goals was to support her in expressing all of her emotions. Over the years, we’ve focused on encouraging our daughters’ tears, rages, frustrations and fears.
Unfortunately, as much as I want to support my kids, I also tend to feel embarrassed if one of my children commands a lot of attention from others while she’s emoting. So here’s the message: ”Emote away, darling, just don’t embarrass me.” Ugh.
After Ava’s accident, I was screaming and panicking on the inside; Ava was sharing her panic with the world. And I felt ashamed. Ava’s crying wasn’t quiet and demure and attractive. It was robust and loud and boisterous. And exquisite (in hindsight only).
When I’m in pain or shock, I’m typically quiet and stoic. Listening to Ava wail and scream and cry, I felt torn between wanting to shut my daughter up and being impressed by the fearlessness of her expression.
The Arboretum’s security guards who attended to Ava while we waited for an ambulance, while caring and kind, appeared taken aback by Ava’s cries and pulled me aside twice to tell me that until she stopped “being hysterical,” they couldn’t discern the extent of her injuries. Rather than focus on the guards’ compassion, I focused instead on their use of the word, “hysterical.”
While I didn’t actively attempt to shut down my daughter’s crying, I felt shame that I couldn’t control Ava’s “hysteria.” I told myself she was doing something wrong, something unseemly. And I, as her mother, was also.
I realize now I did my daughter a disservice. I comforted and soothed, but I didn’t stand up for her. I didn’t say out loud, “Listen, Mr. Security Guard, I appreciate your help and I support my daughter expressing her pain for as long and as loudly as she needs to. I will not shut up my kid so you or I can be more comfortable. I’m willing to wait until she’s finished. I trust her.”
Instead I felt shame that we were taking up the security guards’ time. Really? Isn’t it equally possible we were providing these guards with an exciting diversion from their usual mundane jobs? How often do they get to witness an adorable 9 yo girl releasing so many beautiful emotions while her equally adorable mom lovingly looks on? That’s the attitude I’d like to have in the future. Until then, I’ll likely be cringing in the corner!
I was taught from a young age to tamper my feelings: don’t be too much, don’t take up too much space, don’t embarrass me.
I don’t want to teach my daughters to be ashamed of who they are or to alter themselves to make me or others more comfortable. (Actually, part of me does. That would be easier for me. And sad.)
My vision is to support my little girls, support all of their big feelings, all their expressions and not try to change them to fit some image or expectation I have at any given time. Easier said than done.
How do you support your children’s feelings? Do you ever feel embarrassed by your kids? How do you handle it?
I’m linking up today with the wonderful people at Shell’s weekly “Pour Your Heart Out” feature on her blog “Things I Can’t Say.”