Being an adult means learning how to cope with your feelings and not taking out your emotional friction on others. It also means accepting that you have to take off your pants and underwear to go to the bathroom. Although being an emotional vampire might provide a nifty opportunity to wear cape and not bother wiping blood from your chin, it can be quite exhausting for others to be around.
We all know those people that have a very limited capacity to deal with their own inner turmoil. They are always in somewhat of a crisis mode, which makes it hard to be anything but slightly self-absorbed. It is hard to be a good friend to others when you are always floundering in the confusion of self-pity and inability to deal.
But a lot of us who may not obviously struggle with how best to cope with the suffering that is the human condition, tend to use other methods that may not be that admirable either. Smoking, drinking, watching excessive amounts of TV, compulsive sexual stimulus, drugs, over-exorcising, over-eating, under-eating, cutting, plucking, picking, are all forms of managing our emotions that are still somewhat self-destructive.
I got thinking about this because at “mommy group” one of the mommies was talking about how her daughter is not only starting to have meltdowns, but doesn’t want to be consoled either. This mommy was conflicted because it was the first time she couldn’t solver her daughter’s problem, the first time breastfeeding wasn’t the answer to calm her. This little girl didn’t’ want anyone to look at her, touch her, comfort her, nothing, and it made the mom feel almost rejected. So she asked if any of us had experienced that before and I said…
“I think that is actually amazing she is learning how to work through her emotions on her own. I know it might be hard for you, but you have to remember you are not just raising a child, but also an eventual adult. You know how tiring it can be to handle a needy friend right? My personal opinion is that what she is doing is really healthy for her in the long run.”
But the mommy group’s stay at home daddy totally disagreed with me.
“Toni I think you are being too rational about something that is ultimately emotional. I don’t know about you, but I want to solve all my kid’s problems. I don’t fear their dependency on me, and in fact want that type of intimacy. Maybe that is selfish of me, but if they later resent me for it later, I hope they still lay a flower of my grave and realize I did the best I could.”
I thought about what he said, and I then I thought about what I was going to watch on TV later. It is not that ignore The Munch’s cries if she is truly desperate, but if she is just whiney I am not going to exactly cater to every irrational request. There are only so many times you can take a doll’s jacket off, then put it back on, then take it off, then put it back on, then take it off, then put it back on again. There is definitely a delicate balance because you never want your child to feel emotionally abandoned, but you also want them to realize that sometimes they are going to have to feel their feelings. More than anything I want her to have real ways of dealing with her emotions so she doesn’t rely on others or self-medicating with bong hits and cartoons.
So every time The Munch is upset I always ask her “what’s wrong” because I want her to feel heard and learn how to process what is upsetting her, but that doesn’t mean I am going to do what she wants because you just can’t have cake for breakfast even if it looks delicious.
“Uhhh Mom… that cake looks really good… can I have some?”