People are moody and emotional. It is part of the human experience. We are always talking, and thinking, about how we feel regarding this thing or that. I feel like the other day I felt better than I feel today, but I feel like tomorrow I might not feel the same as I wanted to feel yesterday.
We can’t stop these feelings just like we can’t stop believing. The challenge in life is figuring out how to best deal with all our emotions. When we are feeling fragile, or in a bad mood, how do we function in society?
Raising a toddler I am constantly subjected to the variety of moods my little demon (ummm I mean sweet angel face) experiences. The Munch doesn’t censor her feelings from me. She lets me know every single sentiment that crosses her tiny psyche. For instance, the other day my mom and I were belly dancing, and The Munch decided she wanted to whine, hang onto my legs, demand I pick her up, and crawl up into my skirt.
Toni: “Munch, you have to give Mamma her space so she can dance.”
Munch: “But I want uppie!! Pick me up!! Carry me!!!”
Toni: “Dude, I can’t hold you and dance. You have tons of toys to play with or you can dance with us. But you have to get out from under my skirt. You haven’t even bought me dinner.”
Munch: “No Mamma NOOOOOO!! I want to be under your skirt. Waaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!”
So I figured I had to let her just cry on the floor for a moment, but call me crazy – it was pretty distracting and not the best ambiance to shake your hips to.
My Mom: “Adelia, if you aren’t going to be fun to be around then you can’t dance with us.”
Toni: “Really mom? That’s how you want to handle this?”
My Mom: “Adelia do you want to hear the story of the little girl who was cranky and not fun to be around?”
My Mom: “Once upon a time there was a little girl named Adelia. She was dancing with her Mamma and her Mana, but she was whining and not fun to be around. So then that little girl Adelia wasn’t asked to dance with her Mana or her Mamma any more. Now do you want to hear the story of the good little girl named Adelia?”
My Mom: “Once upon a time there was a little girl named Adelia. She was happy and fun to be around so she was asked to dance with her Mamma and Mana every day. So Adelia do you want to be the good little girl or the bad little girl?”
Munch: “I want to hear the story about the bad little girl again!”
Okay… so the mystery of why I am the way I am was solved after watching this interaction. First of all, I am perpetually in a good mood around other people. I am such a pleaser, and so hyper sensitive to how people feel about me, that its borderline pathological.
And if I am in a bad mood or unhappy, I get very very quite. I don’t talk, I am never mean. I don’t pick fights or look for problems. I just sit their silently brewing on my own inner turmoil. If I am depressed, I disappear and you won’t hear from me until I am no longer feeling shitty. That is the way I deal with my feelings -by internalizing them deeply and sharing them with no one. Do you think my mom’s stories worked on me when I was a kid or what?!
Part of my conditioning I appreciate because I am independent and don’t rely on others to help me through my issues, but I also might be I am excessively emotionally repressed and creating and ulcer. Only time will tell!
I get my mom’s strategy though. No one likes to be around someone in a bad mood, and ultimately their mood fucks with your chi- so it is understandable and desirable to make kids aware of that. I agree with that part, and I don’t want The Munch to be an emotional vampire, or that girl that everyone rolls their eyes at because she is such a drama queen. But I am still not exactly sure how best to deal with her bad moods. Is the answer as simple as “just be in a good mood kid because your shitty attitude is annoying me?”
As much as I want The Munch to be happy and pleasant all the time because that makes my life easier, that is not a realistic expectation. I think it’s important for her to feel her feelings and not deny them. To allow herself a moment to acknowledge what is going on, because feelings are teachers and inform us in a profound way. But the key is not allowing them to overtake you, or infect you and the people around you.
But my question is, how to let The Munch feel her feelings and not wallow in them. Sometimes it is easy once you start pity part to stay way past your welcome. It is seductive to get carried away in our own victimhood, and sometimes The Munch can be a wicked dick when she is upset and doesn’t get what she wants. Like the other day when she didn’t want to take a nap and was kicking her legs in fury even though my head suffered some “friendly fire.” I feel like my challenge for year 3 of her life is to figure out how to allow space for The Munch’s feelings, but also have boundaries in how she expresses them.
I guess she really didn’t want to take a nap!