Finally it’s my birthday. I go in to wake her up. Before she even opens her eyes she is telling me that she doesn’t want to go on the camping trip. I don’t know what to say to her. All sorts of responses run through my head: “Don’t be silly.” “But we celebrated together last night.” “Why not?” I want to ask. But I don’t. I don’t say anything.
She is sad and mopey. I open my arms to give her a hug. I hold her as she repeats herself, “I don’t want to go camping.” Followed by “I don’t want to go to school.” There are a million responses swirling in my head. All of them logical, rational. None of them helpful. I realize that my daughter is not sharing a logical or rational problem with me. This is all about an emotional response. I don’t say anything for a few more moments. I am silent as I hold her.
Then, quietly, I ask her a question. “Is your heart sad about leaving?” She looks up at me with big eyes, “YES!”
“Let me hold your heart for you.” I put one hand on her back and the other over her heart. “I understand.” I mean, I think I do. And really, there’s nothing I can say that will make her feel better. It’s not a pleasant realization for me. Sometimes we have to do things that we don’t want to. It doesn’t make it better when someone tries to reason with us. It does help when someone is willing to keep us company. “If you get sad while you’re away, you can hold your own heart.” I remind her.
By not trying to fix the situation, I don’t give her the opportunity switch from sad to angry. I don’t give her a reason to yell at me for trying to be rational and logical. There is nothing for her to push against, other than her own thoughts.
I avoid trying to help her. Instead, I am quiet as I hold her. We connect in the silence. I give her space to feel an emotion that is unpleasant, without rushing to change it for her.
She is still sad and mopey when I suggest getting dressed. She is still sad and mopey later in the morning when it’s time to say goodbye at school. My heart does it’s own breaking as I leave and walk back to my car. It’s not easy, this parenting thing.
A few hours later one of the chaperones texts me a photo of my daughter, smiling, eating lunch and having a great time. I find myself breathing out the tension I have been holding all morning. I am reminded that my daughter is strong and resilient. That she can (and will) feel sad and recover. I am reminded why I trust myself to be silent when she is sad.