Our oldest is just a few month shy of ten. He is an observer. Taking in the situation before he jumps on board. These past few months he has been jumping into the conversation with my husband and I. Noticing and picking up on things that we hadn’t needed to address until now. One of those questions I was asked in the car was, “Why don’t you and daddy get along?”
That little missive hit me right in the gut. I will be the first to admit that I can be a big time cranky pants. Especially at home. And the last year in particular has been difficult. I don’t hide my feelings. They are all out there. If I’m sad, I’ll cry. If I am mad, I yell. If I think something is funny, I will laugh. One of the primary emotions I have had for the last year is annoyance. Annoyance that I had to take care of other people. There was a lot to take care of in myself. I know that seems terribly selfish. But when I was in the throes of depression and processing deep hurts, I didn’t have a lot of energy to focus on my husband or kids.
These are things I am making better now. But, obviously, marks have been made. If my nine year old son can pick up on the fact I don’t have a lot of patience for my husband who has been nothing but generous and sweet and loving thru all of this emotional upheaval, than the effects of my processing have been noticed. My son’s question made a place for a conversation to be had. I calmly explained that it has been hard for mommy to be happy and just laugh off teasing. That there is a place of sadness inside of me that makes it difficult for me to just have fun.
My son’s question has made me think about my own responses. I absolutely believe my home and family is the place I am safest to be upset. But I have seen that my responses to my processing were causing harm to our family. So now I take a pause. I go clean a bathroom or make something for dinner that has onions so I can have a good cry. It is not ok for me to take my bad day out on the members of my family.
You know what, all of this is ok. Because I have been honest about my feelings and didn’t stuff them inside, I have been able to allow my kids to have feelings to. I’m not saying we are a family of Godzilla’s rampaging over the city of each other’s emotions (although if you come over at four o’clock in the afternoon it might seem that way to the outside observer), but there is space in our home for people to be upset. There is room for someone to slam a door and take some time to cool down. There are also places for I’m sorry and I forgive you to be said. We have to learn about constructive and harmful ways to process our emotions, because if we don’t know the difference it will hurt others. While it’s ok to be upset, it is NOT ok to hurt others to make ourselves feel better. These are the lessons we’ve been learning at home.