I started learning about listening to children's feelings five years ago. My oldest child, now eight, and I have had a long road together to turn around the hurts that he had in the first few years of his life. While we are not completely healed yet, there are moments of clarity that help me deeply know that we are growing together towards happiness. Here is a story that shows what a caring, loving, thoughtful child this type of parenting can bring forth.
I had a rough day today–nothing big really, just lots of little things. I had taken the kids and a friend to an IMAX movie and wound up with a headache. The trip home in the car brought me to the brink. I yelled more than once, then I retreated into myself the rest of the way home, while the children were all silent. When we got home, I still had a headache, so I left the work to my husband and went to my bedroom to rest.
My eight-year-old son came in to me and asked gently “Can I visit?” He lay down with me and put his arms around me softly, letting me bury my face in his chest.
“Your head is hot,” he said. “You had a hard day. It must be hard taking care of three kids and yourself too.”
“Usually,” I told him, “it's fun. But yes, today was hard.” My throat was getting tight, and the tears I had been holding back in the car were starting to come. “I didn't do a very good job of not yelling today. I try so hard not to yell because I know it hurts you.”
He couldn't see my face, but the tears were coming. “Is it ok if I cry for a while?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. So he held me while I sobbed rather gently for a few moments. I felt horrible about the yelling I had done, but at the same time the powerful love for me coming from my son was feeling wonderful. I knew I would be all right. I knew we would be all right.
I kissed his cheek and smiled at him.
“Are you feeling better now?” he asked.
“Yes, I am. I must have been holding in that cry. Thank you for helping me let it out.” I said as I relaxed even more.
“You were probably punished for crying when you were little and now it's hard to get it out,” he thoughtfully replied.
“Something like that.” I couldn't help giggling. Then more seriously, “Yes, it's hard for me to feel safe enough to cry.”
We cuddled for a little while longer. Then he heard his brother and sister playing in the other room and he jumped up to go play. As he was closing the door to let me go back to resting, he blew me a kiss and mouthed “I love you.”
— a mother in Levelland, Texas