The other day Peyton and I were talking about something - I can't even remember what it was - that caused me to say, "I remember when that happened to me and it made me cry."
She looked at me in disbelief and said, "But mommies don't cry!"
I then had to explain to her that yes, in fact, I DO cry, that everyone cries. She then chimed in with, "But Mommy, I've never seen you cry."
Score one for the rising kindergartener.
She's right. I can't remember a time where I've cried in front of my kids. I don't count the baby days when sometimes I would weep from mere exhaustion, they don't really count because the kids don't remember that time in their lives. But, over the last few years, I cannot remember a time when they saw me shed a tear.
Now part of this has to do with the fact that I'm not one to wear my heart on my sleeve. I keep my feelings close and guarded, worried if someone sees me feeling out of step or wearing thin. I'm the first to admit that it takes a lot to make me break down. I'm just not a crier ... but I DO cry.
My conversation with Peyton got me thinking though. I want my kids to share their feelings with me. Not just now, but later on down the line. In those scary tween and teen years I want them to talk to me, to open up, to let me know if they're sad or hurt or joyful inside. And the only way that they're going to learn how to do this is by watching Matt and me. By watching us share and reveal our hearts and feelings to them, the good and the bad. Admittedly, I can't become a "feeling-sharer" overnight, it's just not in my nature. But I can make a concerted effort to make sure my kids know what I am feeling so that they too can learn what feelings are, how to identify them, and how to share them with others.
I've started trying to share more feelings with them lately and I can already see a difference. I talk about when I'm sad and why I'm sad or if I'm having a good day I'll share and tell them why. It's helped tremendously when I've been frustrated or angry. Rather than erupting in anger or yelling, I'll just start spewing how I feel. Things like, "It makes me really angry when you won't do what Mommy asks you to do. I'm upset because now we all have to sit here and wait because you aren't ready. That means we're going to be late and I get angry when I'm late to an appointment that I've made with someone." It seems a little harsh in writing but I'm telling you it has made a world of difference. The kids are seeing I have feelings and instead of just knowing that I'm angry because I'm raising my voice, they know WHY I'm getting angry. It also makes me feel better and decreases the likelihood that any yelling is involved.
I could tell the kids were really liking it when they started drawing pictures of their feeling to show me. One time when I didn't let Sam have a piece of gum, he went and drew a picture about what he felt like instead of crying and being upset. He showed it to me and we talked about the picture and how he felt. I think by letting them tell us their feelings, they feel validated and more willing to accept any punishments or repercussions that we dole out. Knowing how they feel has softened my approach to them and how we talk about arguments or disagreements after the fact. And, hopefully, it's helping them understand that having feelings, understanding them, and sharing them are normal things for our family to do. Now if only I can guarantee that this will still be the case 10 years down the road ...