Saturday, January 29, 2011

Like Me

Ava is similar to me in the way she processes emotion, and I am hoping to find a way to help her become more expressive. I have spent most of my life hiding how I was really feeling, particularly when I felt upset, and I see her already crafting a "tough guy" swagger which appears brave and commendable, until you understand that the person is really hurting underneath the facade, and no one has any idea.

William is the opposite, as he wears his every emotion on his sleeve, visible for all to see. This used to make me uncomfortable, but now as I get to know him as he really is, I understand that as a strength. I worry that he will be hurt unnecessarily, over and over again in life, but I appreciate that he is connected to what he is feeling, and is true to himself in that process.

Last week, while Jason was away, William cried every night at bedtime, usually while I was putting toothpaste on his brush, sobbing like his heart would break and repeating plaintively, "Daddy, Daddy," over and over again. I would hug him, and remind him when daddy was coming home, and the storm would pass and he would feel better.

With Ava it was a different process. Jason would call and she wouldn't want to talk to him, and would act like it was no big deal. But on the third day of his trip, she was teary when I picked her up after school and said she had no reason for it, and when we got home she was chattering about school but there was a forced brittleness to her line of chat, and her eyes were wide and bright.

I continually asked her what was wrong, and she said, "Nothing," while keeping busy with a book or a barbie. Finally I brought her into her room, away from William and the endless distraction of the kittens, and asked pointed questions, "Is it school? Your friends? Are you feeling sick?" until I hit on the right one, "Do you miss Dad?"

She shook her head no, but immediately burst into tears, and I hugged her and offered soothing noises until she was finished crying, and then we talked about how it's okay to hurt and feel sad, and even as an adult you don't always know why you are crying, but it's a good idea to think about it, or write in a journal, or talk to someone until you figure it out, because then you tend to feel better.

I hope I helped her to understand this. I don't want her to hide away, pretending that she's fine when she really isn't, because I know for a fact that it doesn't work. You end up resentful of those who are acting out and receiving the attention and the help that you are looking for, but don't want to seek out.

It's a coping mechanism that helped me survive up until this point, but now I want to be authentic and aware of how I'm feeling at any given moment, and have the courage to own up to my emotions. Hopefully I can model this for Ava and reverse her tendency to hide her negative feelings, from herself and from the world.


  1. I grew up like you, learning to hide emotion, and now struggle with showing it to my hubby. Hopefully as my daughters grow up, I can learn to help them express their emotions appropriately as you have with Ava.

  2. It's always good to know we are not alone, that others have had similar experiences or processes, and I find encouragement in the fact that it's never too late to change things about yourself, and try to do better, particularly so your children won't have to untie the same kinds of knots as you've had to. Thanks, KBW.