Wednesday morning, we were sucked into the pits of hell. My kids were agitated, irritated, and outright vengeful. The tornado spun chaos between the 5 of us. It would infiltrate one person to the next, someone would yell, another would react. It was a morning of fury and fire.
They lashed out in vicious sarcasm, and we (parents) responded in [empty] threats. We did everything to pass the rage between us. Each worried we’d be pinned as the source of the problem. No one willing to take responsibility. Instead of talking, we just bit at each other. No resolve, no attempts to make amends and seemingly no end to this cyclone of torment.
The storm intensified between us and showed no signs of stopping.
I stepped outside and wrote, for a while. I could hear the chaos, toddler screeches, kindergarten cries and daddy bellows behind the glass door. The tears stung my eyes, I felt trapped. It had been this way before, and we could spend another day or 2 doing it again.
Our family life is overall healthy. We communicate well, we give our children an opportunity to express themselves without expectation, and find creative ways to incorporate their sensory needs. We do love to be together, (most days). But like all families, some days are not as warm and fuzzy as others. Today was downright awful. I didn’t want to be near ANY of them. Ordinarily, I would seek refuge away from home. I’d make up an excuse then lock myself in my office to evade the erratic destruction of a winless battle.
I felt an endless throb of anger between my temples, toward my husband, my sons and myself for not knowing how to “deal” with this. Only the sliding glass door separated me from our immersive misery.
I felt resentment down to my core and admittedly embarrassed for feeling that way.
Resentment. The word struck me so hard, I almost fell over. Deep sorrow penetrated my core. It wrapped me in shame and guilt. How dare I feel this! I tried to tuck it away, write it out, scream it out and even “breathe out of the sensation”. But NONE of that worked. There was nothing but me and the awareness that we were all sharing the mania of resentment.
I sat outside for an hour, tears teemed down my cheeks and mixed with sweat from my fear. I didn’t want to go inside, I didn’t want to be outside and I certainly did not know the way forward from here. It felt wrong to hide the truth but it felt worse to pretend it didn’t exist.
I could feel the sorrow inside of me, and it didn’t matter if I was inside, outside or across the damn country. I knew it, and they felt it too. It didn’t matter what clever words I wrote, how I breathed or how many hours I’d pray to God to take it all away.
The reality was simple:
the emotion was alive in all of us and it was NOT going away until it was addressed.
It didn’t matter where it came from, or who “started” it, or why it gripped at my children’s behaviors and strangled their senses. I knew I had to be the one to take responsibility and face it down.
It sounded simple, but it wasn’t. Emotions were not discussed, valued or even acknowledge in my household growing up. I was in uncharted territory. In fact, any effort put forth (by me) to work with ‘feelings’ was met with scorn. I learned quickly to stuff my feelings way down deep where no one could find them. I thought about the repercussions of “emotional vulnerability”. No one ‘talks about this stuff’, I must be insane. I certainly had NO evidence to support this theory that ‘honesty was the best policy’ since it had always gotten me in a heap of trouble in the past.
What if my family didn’t listen?
What if this outright backfired?
What if they felt attacked, would they believe this was coming from a place of true love, not criticism?
Moms are NOT supposed to feel this way about their kids and families.
I had gone from self- assured to mortified in less than a minute. I was a terrible mother and failed as a parent…. as a daughter and as a human.
My 6-year-old screamed at his big brother inside the house, toys flew across the room, and my conscious tugged at me. I wanted to retreat and take time and space from everyone (just like my childhood). A deeper knowing encouraged me to reveal my truth to my family even if it was the ‘wrong’ thing to do.
So I called us all together, I asked the boys to turn off toys and tv. They were agitated and I was devastated. I fought with my sensibility, parents “shouldn’t” tell their kids about their emotions. What was I thinking? How dare I burden my children!
I talked before I lost my nerve.
“I feel sad” I couldn’t hold back and cried. I was in so much pain, my chest burned as I whimpered through words, “I feel resentment, and that means I am afraid to spend time with all of you. We’ve been so mean to each other, and I hate that. It’s not ok. I don’t feel okay. I have to be honest because I think you guys feel it too.”
My kids were amazing. They listened still and calm, silent for the first time in 3 hours. My middle son brought me a stuffed kitten to cuddle, my oldest cried too. Each of us took a turn to express and listen. Even my 3 year old eventually said, “I sad, mommy”. There were no expectations and no limits. We held space for each other, in quiet acceptance. No one took it personally, no one attacked anyone. We spent 5 minutes in emotional ‘confession’. It wasn’t forced, it was pure love and kindness.
It seems obvious in some ways, but trauma can blind simplicity.
But here we stand, the truth exposed, and they’re all completely fine. Our home feels better, we all feel relieved.
Maybe I’m not the worst mom after all.
I couldn’t believe it. My husband looked perplexed but was supportive of my effort. The kids were visibly happier, they played nicely and the urge to run away completely vanished from my heart.
I was terrified of all that could go wrong only to find my family really did love me for exactly who I am. It filled me with such joy, I’m speechless and relieved to be received this way because for so long that wasn’t the case.
Rarely, if ever, are we encouraged to be honest. And even when we are, it seems to blow up in our face somehow. This doesn’t leave us empowered to put ourselves out there again. We’re never really inspired to speak our truth. We’re not lead to believe emotions could have any sort of long-term impact on us. And in my house growing up, emotions possessed no value whatsoever. It’s hard to overcome old wounds. But here we are, and I see now, the difference between the reality of healthy communication and the lie that we’re not meant to talk about it.
My highly sensitives kids, they feel it anyway. I can run and hide but I’ll still find myself caught in the middle in the misery until I summon the strength to speak it out loud.
I realized today it’s ok to be honest with my kids. They already know how I feel because they express it through their behaviors. I know for many of us, it isn’t easy, we weren’t brought up in environments that recognized and honored emotions. It takes courage to be sensitive and vulnerable, But, if we’re fearless enough to believe in the truth of our expression, we may give our children a piece of what they need to thrive in this complex world.