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.
I was in distress over the situation with our son and
voiced out loud to my husband, “I feel adequate to deal with
physical challenges, but not emotional ones. I don’t like that
our family is in need of this kind of help.” Despite being a
psychology major, the idea of a mind and body connection was
foreign to me. Mark wisely replied, “We don’t get to choose.”
During my boy’s first appointment with the counselor, I cried
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