31 August 2009

Feelings, oh-oh-oh Feelings

Maddie, Riley, and I went out to dinner last night with my mom, my stepdad, my dad, and my in-laws (who were in town for the weekend). Maddie and Riley were coloring on their kids' menus with restaurant-provided crayons while we waited to order. Maddie tends to press very hard when she draws, and she snapped one crayon in half with the pressure. She selected another crayon and kept drawing. It, too, snapped in half.

This was too much. She turned to my mom, heaved a big sigh, and said, "Moo, I'm very frustrated right now. I'm just very frustrated." And she clearly was. I got one of Riley's crayons (he's not much for drawing) and passed it to her, explaining that the crayons would be less likely to snap in half if she would not press so hard. She understood, and that was that.

What a change from even just a few months ago, when an incident like that could have—and would have—sent her right over the edge. But what impressed me more than just her control of her emotions was her ability to express herself, to articulate that she was frustrated. Not mad. Not angry. Not sad. Frustrated. She got it just right. I know a lot of adults (sometimes myself included) who can't pinpoint what they are feeling, and, even if they can, who don't necessarily feel safe talking about it.

Being a parent has awakened in me a range of emotions—good and bad—that I didn't know lived within me. I've had to learn how to manage these feelings, which can sometimes be a challenge, especially when there's no other adult around. Because I want Maddie and Riley to understand that it's OK to experience and express a wide range of emotions and because they are usually the only ones around to witness my ups and downs, I've tried to be very open about explaining what I'm feeling. I say things like, "I'm getting very angry," or "I feel sad today," or "Those words really upset me" a lot. In the past month or so, I've started to hear Maddie and Riley express those sentiments, too. "Maddie, I'm angry with you!" I'll hear Riley intone. "Mama, I'm a little sad. I miss my crib. It's hard to be a big girl," Maddie sniffled the other night.

I find that I tend to either give Maddie and Riley too much credit—expecting them to be able to do things that are beyond the capacity of a three year old—or not to give them enough credit, and emotional intelligence falls into the latter category. It was not until Maddie expressed her frustration last night at dinner that I understood what a good grasp she and Riley have on what they are feeling and just how capable they are of expressing that. It makes me so happy, and I want to do everything I can to encourage it. I guess the best way to do it is to keep having feelings myself and to keep telling the two of them what those feelings are. Thankfully, that feels very natural to me.

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The in-laws came, the in-laws went. We actually had a very nice visit. In some ways it felt too short (gasp!). Maddie and Riley were thrilled to have them around, and, in the end, that's what matters.

They brought the kids some new toys and clothes, which is always fun for one and all. One of the things they brought Maddie was a little Dora doll, the kind whose eyes close when she lays down. Poor Maddie was holding the doll in one arm like a baby, using her free hand to prop open Dora's sleeping eyes. She got more and more agitated as time went on and Dora's eyes just wouldn't stay open. "But Mama!" she said, tearing up, "I just want my Dora to look at me!" Something about it was so poignant, this desire for her dolly to look at her, and Maddie's need to be able to meet that gaze as part of her caretaking of her lovey. Thankfully, a little superglue will take care of Dora's eyes. Hopefully Maddie won't feel as frustrated by sleepless babies as I sometimes do.

*************************
Maddie and Riley start preschool a week from tomorrow. The students at Reed started their classes today. Over the past week, students have been arriving at school for orientation or returning as upperclassmen.* They look so young to me, and it's true that I'm twenty years older than most incoming students. As I prepare to send Maddie and Riley off for the beginning of their formal education, I can't help but wonder what kind of college they will choose to attend, if any. What will their passions be in life? What will their friends be like? I'm not yet sentimental about them leaving behind their babyhood, although I'm sure someday I will be. Right now, I'm excited on their behalf about the possibilities that lie ahead. Preschool. Next week! Maddie hopes to learn "lots of things that are not naughty." Riley is exited that someone who works at the zoo might come talk to the kids about what that's like as a job. Oh, and he hopes to learn how to read and write. Both of them love to review their teachers' names and the names of the other kids in their class. I think this is going to be good for both of them.

So many new beginnings. So many possibilities. There has been a lot of change in my life over the past few years, not all of it good and much of it quite difficult. The changes we've gone through of late have felt much more optimistic and positive. That in and of itself is a change for the better.

*Anyone have an alternative to "upperclassmen" so as to avoid the "men"? "Freshmen" can easily be "first-year students," but there's no quick fix (that I know of) for "upperclassmen." This comes up a fair amount at work. Solutions appreciated.

38 comments:

amber said...

I love this post. So much. You are obviously doing a great job with the kids for them to be so vocal with their feelings at this young age. You deserve a pat on the back mom. :)

Christine said...

But wait, where's the footnote? You've got an asterix after "upperclassmen" and it doesn't go anywhere.

Insight please!

CV said...

N had her first full day at preschool today. The report came back all positive. Good luck next week. They're so ready!

Snickollet said...

Christine--

Sorry! Situation fixed!

-snick

serror said...

At my college students were just referred to by their year of study, first year students, second year students, etc. etc... Being that it is a very liberal and politically correct school in Olympia, any one of any ethnicity was also referred to as "first-peoples" by the school. It always kind of delighted me in a hilarious hippie way!

Wolf said...

when i worked at a university we always used upper class students rather then upperclassmen. or we referred to them by their year of study. :)

kris said...

i'm sorry but the fact that anyone cares about 'upperclassmen' just blows me away. the real world is going to kick some butt i think.

Holly said...

"Co-eds".

I work at the zoo and agree that is going to be one exciting speaker!

abernier said...

I am very proud of Maddie for acknowledging her furstration. Proud of you too.

Rachel said...

It's awesome that Maddie is able to understand and express her feelings so well. Love the tidbits about the kids. I'm glad the visit with the inlaws went well.

Melissa Haworth said...

I think we use "upper division students" at my university.

mek said...

Oh the feelings and the labeling of feelings! We're having a difficult patch right now for many reasons, and tonight my daughter told me, "Mama, if you are feeling very angry it's because you are making *yourself* very angry!"

Damn if it wasn't true. Her behavior just prior was not helping...but she had a point. But, it kind of sucks to not only hear your own words coming back of you, but to hear the shadow of your father's voice at the same time!!

Anonymous said...

Returning students or contining students or upper class students?

Sandra said...

Upperclass students. Although, thinking about it, it's sounds kind of classiest/elitist. Maybe just returning students?

Anonymous said...

Undergrads. Or co-eds.

OTRgirl said...

I love how articulate they are becoming! Very cool of you to be as transparent as possible so that they have it modeled.

At my uber-liberal school (let's just say Reed, Evergreen and Oberlin were also on the list), it was first-year, second-year, etc. We had some fifth and sixth-years, so it made sense... "non-traditional" meant lots of stops and starts on the educational path. One of my friends worked a semester on the Alaskan pipeline, then came back to college the next semester. He racked up the 'upper class' years!

ann ominous said...

Hi Snick :-)

upper class students and first/second/third/fourth years are the way to go...

Caustic Cupcake said...

I like "returning students" because "upperclass students" sounds forced and has a tinge of snootiness.

katia / crazy for trying said...

at my undergraduate school we used "frosh" for first year; after that it was 2nd year, 3rd year, etc.

where i work now it's freshmen, sophomore, junior, senior.

Rebecca and Chris said...

I work at a university in Canada and we call our students "first years" or "upper years". Maybe that will work?

Cari said...

"Returning students" to me sounds like adult-education students who are past college-age but are going back to school in their 30s, 40s, 50s, etc.

I vote for "upperclass" students or 3rd and 4th year students.

uberimma said...

"Juniors and seniors." Easy enough.

So glad everyone's in a good place. And that the in-law visit went well--that's amazing.

Becky said...

Aw, there were so many things in this post that were so adorable! That's so cute that Maddie wanted Dora to look at her.

So, upperclassmen is a problem but freshmen is not? They both have "men" in them. I don't see the problem, and I went to uber-liberal Wesleyan.

Christa said...

What about women? Should it be woperson? Then you still have the "son" in there. I've seen womyn in the past, but it doesn't look to have caught on and it still harks back to men when spoken. Thoughts?

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

I need to take a lesson from you and Maddie about expressing feelings. Wonderful stories...

Good luck with the start of school! Vivi starts next week too. We are ALL very excited about that!

Sadia said...

Where I went to school, freshmen were "frosh". Upperclassmen were "juniors and seniors". Long, but accurate and gender-neutral.

Of course, now I work at a university where hardly anyone graduates in five years, so "senior" is a perennial moniker.

Polly Wog said...

Returning or continuing students sounds fine for the aggregate when you are talking to the outside world. But for internal use (I mean, if you are talking to Reedies or their ilk, in a reasonably informal setting) why not upperclassfolk?

KathyB said...

Best wishes to Maddie and Riley on their first day of preschool! E and A start the week after next and I'm so excited about it (except for the labeling everything and lunch packing, which I never have had to do before...)

Mary Ellen said...

I was going to say "juniors and seniors" - but actually, what we use in my college is (as mentioned above) "upper division students". Too many syllables, I know.

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mlg said...

Hi Snick... I like Upper Division Students. It is what said way back when..

Elise said...

I like returning students because it is all encompassing and doesn't assume everyone is there for a traditional 4 year degree.

June said...

You absolutely 'blow me away' with your insight...you have done a great job in teaching your children to express how they are feeling...if only more parents would do the same [and I'm speaking of my precious son & his wife with their children]. Some of us 'older folk' could take lessons from you'..wish I'd been as bright in raising my own children. Those two adorable children are precious. And, it was so nice to know you had a good weekend with all the parents/ grandparents. Best wishes for a great year!!!

SMx said...

kudos to you!

I can't believe you are not sentimental. I'm getting a little weepy seeing my friends' send their kids to Kindergarten and my babes are just 4 months. I know that will soon be my baby boy and girl going off to Kindergarten and eventually college. When do I have to admit that it isn't the post partum hormones and this is just part of motherhood? I never used to be so sentimental/weepy.

I do have a distinct memory from my first week at college. I was riding my bike to swim practice...I looked around the gorgeous campus and said to myself how lucky am I that I get to spend the next 4 years here.

So now I find myself looking at my twins and saying how lucky am I that I get to share adventures with you for the next 18 years (and beyond I hope).

Roads said...

We can learn a lot from how our children handle anger. It's hard enough to do when you're (supposedly) grown up.

At my university, first year students were 'freshers' -- at least for short -- and 'snotty-nosed freshers' in full.

Second years were second years, and third years were third years (although the university called them 'Finalists', which sounded a bit dramatic, or as if they were about to lose to Roger Federer).

carosgram said...

I might choose 'underclassmen' as the component to go with 'upperclassmen'. Glad to hear that things are going so well. Sounds like the move to Oregon is paying off.

G-Dawg said...

How about Rottenmen to go with the whole Freshmen thing? JK JK

Someone else already said it, but I think "Returning students" sound good.

Jana said...

My daughter Charlotte is a day younger than the twins, and she is definitely not doing well in the emotion-expressing department. She has a tendency to dissolve into tears or frustration or anger when faced with unpleasant feelings or outcomes. Any tips? How have you helped the twins learn to articulate their feelings?