I just spent the last hour snuggling with two very nervous little girls. Tomorrow is there first day of school. I put them to bed with smiles and giggles... and about thirty minutes later, they both came downstairs together... doing their best to hold back tears.
In near unison they said, "Mom, we're scared."
It was all they could do to get the words out before they both burst into tears. Like, hyperventilating-ugly-cry-the-world-is-ending, tears.
"Come here sweet girls. It's okay. You'll be fine"
"It's okay. You'll be fine." Those were my first words.
Even though they were both clearly not 'okay' and not 'fine' I was asking them to disregard all those internal feelings, instincts and emotions... I was tempting them to bulldoze right through them, like they didn't even matter. "It's okay. You'll be fine."
Just ignore all those icky feelings that make you have to process your emotions... and if I show how to do that now, you'll become a PRO at it when you're in middle school and college, and by the time you're in your 30s, you'll know all the tricks to avoid, distract and tip toe around actually speaking your mind and owning your feelings.
OH DEAR GOD. I was almost that mom tonight... without even thinking twice. How many of us do that, right? Whether it's our kids or a friend or a colleague - "It's okay, you'll be okay. It's fine. You're fine. We're all f-ing fine."
Validate them, Mel. Freaking validate these little precious humans who are begging you to let them know these feelings are real and okay. They are in uncharted territory and you are their guide through the uncertainties and scaredness. Validate them.
"You know what, it's not okay," I hugged them both closer, with my#leakyeyes starting to mirror theirs. "It's okay to be scared. Your first day of school is a big deal. There are so many things you don't know yet, and I can't imagine how that feels for you. So let's talk about it, okay?"
Mind you, my two daughters are VERY different, so usually I handle these conversations one-on-one, but there was no time for that. (This was a high alert all hands on deck crisis moment and my husband had already conveniently headed over to the neighbors for a beer.) And I'm glad, because as each of them talked (and cried) I noticed they were able to experience empathy with each other. Empathy - as in, "I feel your pain and I'm with you in it." (This is SO FREAKING RARE and when it happens my heart explodes!!!)
For Alexis, it was just the unknowns and the fears around navigating her way through new territory, teachers and friends. She is so much like me - we both need information to feel comfortable and settled. For Ali, she was just scared. She doesn't want kindergarten to start because it means summer ends... and she was the QUEEN of summer fun. And, she's worried the playground won't have awesome equipment - I assured her I would join the PTO if such a travesty occurred.
I validated, and I nodded my head. Repeatedly. I let them know that every fear was perfectly legitimate and real. I did my best to help them see through to the other side (I won't bore you with all of that... it goes just as you would expect it) but here's where we landed... and I'm just so awed at how whether we are going into kindergarten or changing jobs or starting a business or running a race or doing that 'thing' we know God wants us to do...
It's okay to be scared. Because when we're scared, we get to be brave too. And brave is beautiful. Brave gets us to courage, and courage reminds us we can do all the hard things life throws our way.
Before I tucked them back in bed, we held hands with each other and said these words out loud, "It's okay to be scared because I'll be brave too." First Alexis, then Ali, then me. For what it's worth, they did not cry... and I officially LOST MY SHIT.
After they comforted me (right? because that's always how these things end), here is our 'first day' plan of attack for tomorrow. Alexis is wearing her turquoise flower, to remind her to be brave, ask for help and keep an eye out for kiddos who also might need a friend by their side. Ali is clipping an orange flower to her backpack... and I told her I'd wear one all day too. Because as she says, "Then it's like we're together all day Mom."
Oh these flowers... there for life's moments.
P.S. They rose to the occasion, as you can see. Holding hands (gasp, tear) and doing it together. Hanging on to this memory.