Wednesday, February 29, 2012

10 Parenting Principles I Wish I'd Known: Episode Three

3) You Will Feel a Wide Range of Emotions. At The Same Time.

Before I had children, I had felt a wide range of emotions. I had felt love. Anger. I had been proud of my loved ones. Astonished at their actions. Shocked by their audacity. Frustrated. Flabbergasted and speechless at times. But rarely were these emotions felt concurrently.

Then I had children.

Think about when what a mother feels when a child is born. There I was, holding my squishy beautiful newborn. Feeling such a deep love, a deep connection, holding this little being that is and shall ever be *mine*. Feeling at peace, like all is right in the world.

But then the flip side: There is a lot that is NOT right in this world. So while I was sitting there, feeling so at peace and serene on so many levels, I also feel an overwhelming burden of responsibility. I was terrified of what the world would bring, how I would protect this innocent little creature.

Love. Connection. Possession. Peace. Serenity. Overwhelmed. Responsibility. Terror.

I was not prepared from the wild swings, going from one extreme emotion to the next simultaneously. For me, it started during pregnancy each time. I would be watching a movie, reading a book, see a commercial, etc. I would see a funny scene with parents and a baby and start laughing hysterically, then swing the other direction and cry happy tears because I could not wait to have those moments with my own baby. Now granted, they did not LOOK like happy tears. In fact, it was usually ugly crying, lol. But I would be laughing hysterically at the comedy on the screen and then start that little voice would take over saying, "That could be you in a few short months." And the love in my heart would swell and I would start crying, then would cry harder because I didn't understand why my emotions were so out of whack.

It took me a while to really understand that my emotions were NOT out of whack. I was not suffering from crazy emotional mood swings. What I had was much more serious. My very being was growing, developing so that it could FEEL MORE.

And I had already felt the emotions that humans experience before my children were born, so it was not like I was discovering new emotions just because I was growing a little tiny person. But I was experiencing those emotions in a depth that I had never felt before, so strong that they were overwhelming, and often with little "down time" before feeling the next wave of emotion crash over me.

Now. To read everything I just wrote, I think I sound a little like a nutcase. Seriously. I promise that I do not spend my days sitting and analyzing every emotion I feel towards my children. They are not statues. They tend to move around. A lot. So I do a lot of chasing and running around. Which does not leave a lot of time for me to sit and ponder every emotion that pops up.

But that's ok. I don't need to ponder. I don't need to analyze. I just need to FEEL them. And sometimes reflect on how amazing it is that I can feel so many emotions so fast.

So now I want to tell you a story to show you want I mean. I believe I have mentioned before that I wanted to eventually share Sassy's ability to, shall we say, adapt the truth to her own benefit. But this is an excellent example of how a parent can feel so many different emotions towards their children in a short period of time, almost simultaneously.


The easiest way to do this is to type it as a narrative and put the emotions and thoughts I had in paratheses. So here goes.

Sassy was in 1st grade at the time. It was a little over 1 month into the school year. I was at work and her teacher called a few minutes after school ended.

Teacher: Sassy used her scissors today to cut her hair.
(*facepalm* Frustration, embarassment)
Me: How bad is it?
Teacher: She only cut the ends off of a few pieces, almost like layers.
(What a smart freakin' kid! Proud of her for at least not butchering her hair!)
Me: Thank goodness. Did she say why she did it? Did you take her scissors away?
Teacher: I did take her scissors away, but she lied to me and said she didn't cut her hair.
(Anger, disappointment)
Me: What did she say about it?
Teacher: Let me explain how it happened. The students were doing quiet time at their desks working on assignments. Sassy was doing great and seemed to be hard at work. Then I noticed a pile of short blonde hair under her desk.
(*facepalm* Really? Can't even hide it and be subtle?)

Then the teacher explained the conversation that she and Sassy had:
Teacher: Sassy, please pick up the pile of hair under your desk and bring it here.
~Sassy complies and take the hair to her teacher~
Teacher: Sassy, why did you cut your hair?
Sassy: I didn't.
Teacher: Sassy, I know that the hair in your hands is your hair. Why did you cut your hair with your scissors?
Sassy: Well....I didn't actually cut it. It fell out.
(REALLY? Shocked at her audacity, angry that she lied, but AMAZED at her ability to think on her feet.)
Teacher: Sassy, you know better. Hair does not fall out like what you have in your hands.
Sassy: Yes it did.
Teacher: Sassy, if your hair was going to fall out, it would be all over, not just in a few places on your head. And it would be falling out from your scalp, not just the very ends.
Sassy: ~sigh~The ends of my hair just fell off. I was worried you would think that I cut it, so I put it under my desk while I was busy cutting out things for the worksheets I was doing.
(Terror. OMG, I am raising a pathological liar)
Teacher: Sassy, I know that you cut your hair. Please put it in this ziploc bag. I'm going to send a note home to your mother with the hair. After lunch, you need to come to back to the classroom. You are missing recess today and we will talk again during that time.
Sassy: *eyeroll* Well, I didn't cut my hair. I shouldn't be in trouble for it.
(WHAT? Pulling an attitude and was disrespectful after blatantly lying?! ANGER)
Teacher: Sassy, you will come back here after lunch and we will discuss it. Ok?
Sassy: Fine. 

Lunch time. Sassy's grade finishes eating and is dismissed to recess. Teacher waits for Sassy...and waits...and waits. Finally goes to find her and Sassy is on the playground. Calls Sassy over.
Teacher: Sassy, are you supposed to be somewhere else right now?
Teacher: Sassy, you are in trouble for cutting your hair and are supposed to be in my room to talk about it.
Sassy: But I didn't cut my hair, so I can't be in trouble for it. My hair fell out!
(Angry at Sassy for blatantly lying, amazed at her audacity, terrified that she will start torturing small animals next, and wondering if she has a career as a politician for sticking to her story so steadfastly)

At this point, recess was basically over, so the teacher decided to just send home a note with the bag of hair and to call me at work. I tell her that I will discuss the issue with Sassy, especially about lying, when I get home from work. Just like always, the first thing we do when we get home is go through her backpack. Sassy loved to pull things out of her backpack, one at a time, almost like a staged show. I decided to take advantage of this.

Me: Sassy, let's go through your backpack. Show Mommy what you did today.
Sassy: Ok! Look at this workbook page I did today!
Me: That's so pretty, you did a great job drawing that picture!
Sassy: See my math page that I did!
Me: Wow, you only missed one! Fantastic!

Then Sassy pulls the ziploc bag out.

Me: That looks interesting! What is it?
Sassy: Um...
Me: Sassy, what's in that bag?
Sassy: It's a craft project . We have to glue the hair to a piece of paper.
(Livid. Flabbergasted. Proud of her ability to improvise. Disappointed that she would lie. Horrified that she was already this skilled at the age of six. Terrified that it would probably be 100x worse when she hits her teens. And love, SO much love.)

You see, I felt all those other emotions, but the one that was over-riding them all was love. Love that I had created this little person who could do such an amazing thing and have the mental clarity to think on her toes, pull explanations out of thin air, and believe so deeply in the story that her imagination had created.

To this day, Sassy's creativity is astounding. She is such a realist in so many respects and will often say things matter-of-factly, but her imagination still creates explanations and stories when she either cannot understand something or is ashamed to reveal how something really happened. So while I feel angry, disappointed, and yes, sometimes terrified by her actions, I still also feel love and take pride in her actions in the same split second.

That is parenthood. Feeling the good and the bad, experiencing the polar opposites of the emotional spectrum simultaneously. And feeling all of those emotions at a much deeper level than you have experienced before.

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