Strength vs. Weakness

How do you show your emotions to others?

I have to admit I struggled showing mine when I was younger. I didn’t allow myself to feel or experience my feelings as I thought they’d show weakness or an inability for me to solve problems on my own.

My oldest struggles experiencing his for similar reasons. He came home after sports practice, was mumbling under his breath, saying little to us, and closing his door in a way you knew he didn’t want it opened. He came out briefly to get dinner. When asked how he was, he looked at me incredulously and said, “practice sucked. I’m just so over it!” He’d had practices before he hated, but this felt like something more. You could tell from his body language he felt tense. I attempted to engage. He said something to the effect of “leave me alone, I’m about to blow a gasket.” My husband attempted to engage. Our son resisted. We decided we needed to let him cool down, and then revisit.

The next morning, before we needed to leave for school, I went to talk to him again. “What was going on last night?” I asked. He grumbled and shared he’d had a hard practice. I asked what made it tougher than usual. Turns out it was the wet and cold, I knew he was holding back. “What else?” I pressed. He sighed and said, “okay, when I was driving home and turning onto our street I thought I was clear, but noticed a car, at the last minute, who’s headlight was out.” I could tell they must have almost hit each other and it scared and angered him. I shared as much. “Anytime the unexpected happens, especially in the car, a normal reaction is fear — am I’m okay are they okay? — and then anger — how dare you scare me!” He looked like he was taking this in though we’ve talked about this before. I continued, “what I’m more concerned about is you being unwilling to talk about your feelings when you got home last night. What you were feeling seemed disproportionate to what you were sharing. “Mom, I don’t need a spotlight on me every time I’m upset.” “It’s not a spotlight,” I said, “it’s helping you work through your emotions. If you don’t talk to someone about your feelings and you hold them in, eventually they will come out in an explosive way that others won’t understand. You’re not doing yourself or anyone else any favors when you don’t work to understand your feelings and find a healthy release for them. Talking to others is one of the easiest ways. I’m here. You’re dad is here. Talk to your friends if needed, just talk to someone.”

He appeared to be considering our conversation. He’s becoming more independent and wants to handle things more on his own. I can appreciate that, but desperately want him to avoid the all-too-common pitfall that keeping your emotions to yourself and not experiencing and working through them is a sign of strength instead of what it truly is, a sign of weakness. I learned this when I talked to a therapist for the first time later in life. Learning how powerful and cathartic it could be to talk and work through emotions lifted my confidence in navigating life and armed me to better deal with challenges as they come my way. My hope is that my son sees how sharing and working through his feelings can benefit him too.

How do you work through and express your feelings? How are you helping your kid work through and express theirs?

Corrective Lens and Seeing What’s Right in Front of Us

When I took my son into a doctor’s office, the doctor inquired what brought us there. I proceeded to share my concerns, what I thought was wrong with my son.  My son hadn’t been experiencing symptoms that required immediate medical intervention, but seemed behind in some of his fine motor skills, which concerned me.

Once I was done listing off all of my concerns, the doctor asked, “What does your son do well?” While I had easily listed off all the things I thought he was struggling with, it took me a while (probably a minute—but it felt like several) to answer to her question.

I realize both my children have many wonderful qualities and characteristics, but was reminded that human nature conditions us to look for what is wrong in one another. The doctor’s question forced me to think about what is right.

As I discussed what I’d learned with friends, I was reminded that we experience people differently when we look for what their strengths are, gifts are, or what they are good at vs. what is different about them, lacking or a deficiency. I thought about my children and how I experience them. If I’m being honest, as much as I’m amazed at their capabilities, I am also looking at behavior that needs to be corrected, areas that need to be learned or actions that need to be addressed.  With new eyes, much like corrective lens, I see my children in a new way. Each child has his own gifts, talents, and capabilities. They are a delight and a wonder to experience, some I experience more fully and gives me even more joy when I shed my need to find something within them that needs to be fixed. They are spectacular just the way they are. Why did it take me so long to see what was right in front of me?

I realize I will have to have an awareness of what lens I’m viewing my children with everyday.  My husband and I will need to continue to guide our children in their journey of becoming adults, but I suspect with my new vision there will be far fewer things I identify that need to be fixed and far more things I learn about the many gifts and talents my children possess.

I wish I had gotten these glasses a long time ago.

What does your child do well? How do you experience them everyday?