If there is one thing that having three girls has taught me, it’s that there are a lot of feelings. Good feelings, bad feelings, hard feelings, soft feelings, so…many…feelings. They can come one at a time or in a huge, messy cascade. Sometimes feelings are triggered by big things, but sometimes something small can make a huge impact. Did you know a song can hurt someone’s feelings? Or a pat on the back? Even a game of pretend has the potential to hazardously impact these delicately balanced things.
Me: Gwen! Stop screaming and crying, what is going ON?!
Gwen: I tried to give Sydney pretend water, but she didn’t want to take it, and then she dropped it and we can’t reach it because of the seat belt!
Sydney: I did so take it! I just accidentally dropped it. I said I’m sorry!
Gwen: I want my pretend water back! She hurt my feelings!
Me: Let me get this straight. You tried to give Sydney pretend water, but she dropped the pretend water on the floor.
Gwen: Yes! And now I can’t reach it!
Me: Okaaaay….why don’t you use different pretend water?
Gwen: No! I want that pretend water! (yelling cries continue)
These kinds of conversations happen every day, sometimes multiple times a day, around here. Most times the arguments themselves seem completely ridiculous (because, pretend water) but I’ve learned that the important thing is not the subject of the argument, but the feelings behind it. Regardless of how silly I think the disagreement is, the feelings fueling the fight are very real.
Isn’t this true for all of us? I know if I’m sad or mad or upset, just having those feelings validated instead of brushed aside as stupid or unimportant makes a huge impact on how I’m then able to handle the hurt.
When one of the kids gets angry like this, I have to first acknowledge that I hear them. Yes, I hear that you’re upset. Yes, I understand that made you sad. Yes, it’s ok to still feel mad even though your sister apologized. Feelings don’t need to have a logical reason in order to be real. In that moment, the moment of pretend water, Gwendolyn was hurt. She felt like her sister didn’t care about her gift. Even though it was just a make-believe game, the feelings of rejection and loss were immediate and visceral.
Once she felt like I wasn’t ignoring her or laughing at her, Gwen trusted me to help her work through the issue. We could calm down together and talk with Sydney to figure out what needed to be done.
All I can say is, luckily I had an extra pretend bottle of water in my purse. Always be prepared, people.