“He would get all whiny, I would send him to his room and set
the microwave timer. He couldn’t come out until he settled
down.” Then she said something very profound. “He was just
expressing his feelings.” My honest and a bit shame producing
response was, “Who do you think told you to set that
microwave timer?” Of course, I had.
As I recall scenes such as these, I sometimes feel
embarrassed. Hindsight and greater knowledge about child
development and emotional expression now offer a very
different perspective. But like most mothers, I was doing the
best I could at that time. My education about and acceptance
of the vast world of feelings was not to come until years down
the road. I was unintentionally passing along to my sons less
than functional ways to deal with the powerful and sometimes
overwhelming emotions of being human. In my younger mom
years, "just make it stop” was the goal during any tantrum or
heightened emotional expression. Particularly in the midst of
one I deemed as “negative” emotion.
One of our sons struggled with anxiety that affected
his daily life and led us to seek professional help when he was
in the third grade. This was during a time when I was in deep
denial around my own struggles with anxiety. I possessed no
conscious vocabulary or awareness for the unhealthy coping
mechanisms I had developed over many years.
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