Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Emma Forgot to Get Scared

Yesterday I was talking on the phone to my dear friend Ellen, an amazing mom from Maine. She had called me at 6:08 am to talk because between her full schedule running a full time program for her daughter Emma and my schedule taking care of my kids the best time for us to talk is before everybody else wakes up.

In the midst of our conversation, Ellen asked me to hold on a second and turned away from our call to Emma and celebrate her lavishly and enthusiastically for waking up and coming out of the bedroom to find her all by herself. "Wow, Emma, you're amazing!!! Look at how you just woke up and came out and found me!!! That's so AAAWWWESSSOOOMMME!" It seems that for the past few days Emma had been waking up in the morning and crying out to her mom to come into the bedroom because she was scared to be in there alone. But today she didn't. Ellen jumped on the opportunity to celebrate her and pointed out to Emma that indeed we don't "get scared", we choose to scare ourselves about things. Ellen then asked Emma why she didn't scare herself today and Emma replied "I don't know, I guess I just forgot to." I immediately understood that Ellen had jumped in to catch Emma doing something right and used that to as a teaching moment.

My next thoughts were to review in my mind how I handle that sort of thing with my kids and I realized that my usual modus operandi is to dive in when something goes wrong and attempt to repair the situation. In concrete terms, i would normally jump in after my daughter is afraid or upset and try to teach her that she doesn't have to be afraid, she can choose to be calm and happy in that moment. Of course, it is usually very hard to get the point across because Sasha is crying so hard she probably can't ever hear what I'm saying. I realize as I'm writing this that this is the equivalent of trying to teach someone how to swim while they're drowning. Well, give me credit for good intentions if not necessarily for brains.

In reviewing my new perspective with Ellen I have begun to think that maybe it would be a much more effective strategy to enthusiastically celebrate Sasha in the moment for choosing to be frightened, unhappy or any of the myriad of emotional states that I want to save her form. Maybe it's more important to be solidly empowered and I could just trust that eventually, if she really believes herself powerful enough to choose her own emotional state, she will naturally prefer to choose to be happy, peaceful and joyful. This certainly is matches my own experiences of the last two years, where I have felt that the key to me choosing happiness was once it occured to me for the first time that I actually can choose it just seemed stupid to pick unhappiness.

Well ,you learn something new every day! It is my hope that, if I and those I love spend enough time choosing happiness over unhappiness, perhaps we will get to a point where we can get Emma's gift, and just forget to be unhappy.

Love always,

Mark

1 comment:

  1. Love it Mark! Bravo. Thank you for sharing this cute story...I love Emma's response "i just forgot". I do forget to be unhappy sometimes too...it's fun. And your idea of celebrating whatever feeling your kids express...so perfect...I think when we do this with anyone, we have more of a chance of helping them through it...like we become something sturdy they want to gravitate to and grab hold of so they don't drowned.

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