Feeling Yucky at 9… or 49
Sometimes my little guy withdraws. If he is angry or annoyed or sad or experiencing anything beyond what most of us would describe as simple, unpleasant emotion he clams up and there is what feels to me like an impossible wall to penetrate. I keep trying. I keep hoping. It breaks my heart because, for me, it is excruciating locking up my pain. It is even more of a challenge if I am not able to identify with what exactly it is I am feeling and that just feels yucky. Furthermore, if I feel unsafe sharing my yuckiness, the feelings seem to travel to a black hole inside of me that appears bottomless. Trying to relocate and release the unpleasant feelings is like digging up a grave. I wonder if it’s even possible sometimes. It’s taken me a lifetime to discover that the longer I bury unpleasant feelings the more challenging it is to recover from them. Because I know how it feels for me, I imagine that it does not feel too good for him either. I want to communicate this to my nearly 9 year old son to save him the added pain. To give him an opportunity to feel safe as he exposes himself. I try and use relatable terminology and offer him an opportunity. “Are you a boy or a robot?” I smile and whisper as gently as I can muster into his ear. “Is that a brain and a heart in there or a machine and a motor?” I tease in the easiest mommy voice I can find to try and lighten the intensity. “I think I hear a heartbeat. That means you are human and humans have all kinds of feelings and it’s really a good idea to share those feelings so it doesn’t feel so bad. Mommy’s have them too.” I caress his arm to help him feel loved and safe. I pray that he can speak because I know it will heal his heart. At the same time I realize that I cannot force it. Even at only almost 9, it is his journey and not mine to conquer. I struggle quite often with how much to interfere as his mother. I have learned that less is more when it comes to interference and that more is always the right answer when it comes to love. I am practicing, though as long as I am his mother I will also be human and that is a long way from perfection. My will tries to whittle it’s way in to my approach and I have to consciously shoo it away. I talk myself into offering one last kiss and one last comment before I let him be : “I know you are a human boy and human boys can feel sad or angry and hurt. It’s safe for you to feel and share that. I love you.” I wait just a few more moments, hear the deafening of the silence, and then I walk away hoping that I did the best I could. I am learning patience. As much as my old tapes try to talk me into forcing and fixing, the newer technology offers a healthier solution even if it feels difficult. Handing it over takes work. I do plan to honor his space and offer one last visit to his room if only to suggest that I am close by and that he is safe and that I did not abandon him. I wonder if this is codependent mommy or healthier mommy and try to trust that I have the wisdom to know the difference. I am learning to offer the support that I want to receive when I am experiencing difficult feelings. I am trying to keep my expectations at bay and trust that we all have unique and individual processes at 9 or 49 or 99 and that I am not the great I am. I am a small part that can offer as much as I have, however, and perhaps a little bit more than I know.