TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY REPOST and no significant gun control…
I’ve had it. I’ve absolutely completely had it. I am fed up with the violence, the greed, and the extreme short-sightedness of our species. With the news of the second (seemingly) random shooting of the week, I have logged off and quit work for the day. I cannot sit one second longer without speaking up.
We are all so lost. We are wandering among a million other broken souls. We are at war with each other. Jada Pinkett Smith issued a statement about women and men last week. She wisely noted, “When woman is lost, so is man.” WE ARE SO LOST. Our culture of greed and misogyny and violence is SO LOST. We cannot go backward. We cannot retreat. We have to keep moving. But first, we have to grieve.
We have to grieve the twenty children who died in Connecticut today. And the six adults.
We have to grieve the prevalence of hatred, intolerance, and vindictiveness.
We have to grieve the way we have treated each other.
We have to grieve rape and genocide and war.
We have to grieve those who say “screw this,” and kill themselves.
But, do you know how? Do you really know how to grieve? I do not intend to cast stones, but this story, and a million more a day should wreck you. The tragedy and horror should stop you in your tracks and break your heart wide open into a flood of tears. And yet, there is SO MUCH PAIN. We hear so many stories, but we cannot afford to be jaded. Women, you have more practice with this. Call a friend. Share the awful burden of what has become of our human family. We cannot afford to become any more emotionally bankrupt than we already are. Men, trust your feelings. Know that they are not a weakness. Parents, you can guide your children in this way.
We must teach our children to be emotionally intelligent. Feelings are just feelings, but they don’t exist for no reason. Feelings keep us connected to ourselves and our bodies. Emotions are messages from ourselves to ourselves, and we have to listen. We have to feel these feelings: hurt, fear, rage. Children are quite good at this. We have to learn from them and remember to NOT stop them short. Do not distract with a cookie, or bribe, or punish, or give “consequences.”
I recall a meltdown that my son had about a bowl. You know how toddlers can be: it was the WRONG bowl. I reframed this outburst and told myself: “It’s not about the bowl, it’s just about the release of emotion.” I held the limit about the bowl and I held space for his big, messy, outrageous feelings. Not because I’m spoiling him. Not because I think he should “get” to have a fit about every little thing. Merely because that was what he was feeling. So I honored it. I let him grieve the bowl. Later, or perhaps not as later as I’d like, he will have much bigger things to grieve. I want to make sure he knows how.
A few days ago I posted this status update on my Facebook page: When my child is melting down, I have to tell myself: “This is not a problem I have to solve, or a behavior I need to correct. It’s merely an emotional outburst I am called to hold space for and be with. My calm, loving presence will offer him the safe harbor he requires to learn to calm himself. The more he practices, the better he will be at this.” I was excited because it was the first post of mine that got significant viral exposure. However with that came the first hateful comment on my page. In response to my kindhearted advice, someone wrote: “I just told my kid to shut the fu*k up.” Why someone would be proud to post that I will never know. I didn’t bother to respond. I just hid it from my feed and moved on. But if I was going to respond, I would have said:
Sir, your child is a human being. Telling him or her to shut-up, even without the vulgar language, is just plain ignorant. You are ignorant to the fact that human feelings are the roots of empathy, and that empathy is the glue for human connectedness and the foundation of kindness. Empathy breeds compassion and compassion is the best way to learn to tolerate the extreme feelings of vulnerability we all feel. You are ignorant to how isolating your cold, mean words are and to how alone and scared your child feels when you treat him or her that way. You are clueless to the fact that isolation fuels loneliness, and loneliness fuels violence. We cannot afford more violence. Feelings, love, and empathy are NOT weakness. This is what will save our sad, sad, little species from ourselves. Please rethink your approach with your child.
Our hearts are breaking and this is exactly right. Feel your feelings. Make space for them. Make space for your child’s feelings. Normalize tears. Normalize anger. Teach love, kindness, and acceptance by showing them, giving them, living them. Grieve. Hold your children when they cry about a bowl. Understand. Say “I know that’s hard, you wanted a different bowl.” Hold yourself and your friends as we break under the weight of this awfulness in Connecticut.
That is so powerful Sarah, and now that I have calmed the wave of tears that came from reading it, my question is: What do we tell our 4-year olds about why we are crying?
I cried in my office before I picked up my little one. Honestly, I think this one is too big to offer up to young children if we can help it. If I end up expressing some grief in front of my child, I will likely say, “I read a sad story.” If pressed, I will say, it was a story about a grown up problem. The Center For Grieving Children has some good suggestions up…
I heard the story late in the day, on my way home from teaching a dance class. I couldn’t stop crying and when I got home my kids were there – I hugged them, and they asked what was wrong. I said “I heard a sad story.” My older son asked “what happened?” I answered, “There are some bad people in the world who do tragic things.” He nodded, and let it go at that. I agree, Sarah, it’s too big for me to get into details. If they hear about it at school or out in the world, and ask questions, I’ll answer as best I can, and seek help if I need to.