This week at our after school care program, a mom came up to my husband, we didn’t know this woman well, but our son’s had been on the same baseball team a few months ago. She said “I just wanted to tell you that your son has been so nice to our son. We really appreciate it.” Their son was new to the school and a year younger. Our son had helped make the transition just a little easier by being nice to the little guy. What a simple, yet wonderful, compliment. The fact that she took the time to tell us means even more and we’ll remember for a long time.
It’s no surprise really; we’ve always known our 6 year old was a thoughtful boy. He can run, throw, catch and play hard just like any boy, or he can also sit and color or watch Dora or act silly to try to make you laugh. Last year he asked me why couldn’t help in his class like the other moms? The guilt ate away at me and though I was able to go a couple times, it didn’t feel like enough. This year I was determined to make it work and signed up for an hour a week. The first week Dad volunteered in the classroom. They had a wonderful time reading in centers with their “guest’s” help. When the hour was up and it was time for him to go, our son’s eyes filled with tears. He didn’t want him to leave. Dad stayed for a little bit longer, ate lunch with him and eventually left a smiling boy in his classroom.
After hearing the story, I was unsure I would be able to handle the tears as well as Dad did. My first reaction was to talk to our son. To explain to him that we made special arrangements to be able to help out and that us being there should make him happy, not sad. We talked about how he wasn’t sad when we dropped him off every day. I continued to try to explain the situation in a way that I thought was patient and helpful, but I could see that the sad feelings were still lingering.
When the morning came for me to volunteer I was a little nervous. How was he going to react when it was time for me to go? To take my mind off it I continued reading “The Conscious Parent” by Dr Shefali Tsabary (which I’ve mentioned before). I started reading a section called “Do you validate your children’s behavior, or their being?” I’d quote all 3 pages if I could, it’s that powerful, but this sums it up nicely:
“We think we need to teach our children not to be afraid, not to be angry, or not to be sad. But why shouldn’t they be scared if they are scared? Why shouldn’t they be sad if they are sad? Why would we ask them to dishonor their feelings? We help them most not when we try to banish their emotions, but when we equip them to navigate such emotions.”
Wow, powerful words and I know that we all do this. We have the best intentions trying to help our children, friends, or family through hard times by telling them all the reasons why they shouldn’t feel that way. We try to help push the emotions to the side so they can get over it faster, when what they really need to know is that it’s okay to feel this way. There is nothing wrong, or bad, or weak or (fill in the blank) with feeling the way you are feeling right now. We do more to help them through it when we let them know their feelings are valid. Heavy stuff, but worth thinking about….
So what happened? When I went into the class, he proudly introduced me to his classmates. I helped with the spelling test, stuff homework folders and then it was time to go. The class thanked me for coming and I even got a few hugs. My little guy gave me a quick hug and a smile, saying “see you later” as he ran to catch up with the class as they went to recess. My worrying was for not, he had worked it out himself.