I strongly believe that life’s simplest and most important lessons are learned when we’re very, very young.
Take these for example:
- It’s important to share
- We don’t hit
- Say please and thank-you
- If you need to go to the bathroom, tell someone (this is a big one)
Important, right? I’ve been thinking about these kinds of lessons a lot recently.
You see, my wife is an early education teacher –she currently wrangles twelve 1-year-olds– and I get a front row seat to some awesome stories about her kids. Each afternoon I get to hear all about their triumphs, their struggles, and their constant growth. It’s great! There’s so much to be learned from watching these tiny people grow.
There’s one lesson, though, that stands out to me for it’s simplicity and profundity.
Occasionally, one of the kids’ world comes crashing to a halt– things are intense when you’re only a year old. These derailings happen when someone gets suddenly scared, or furiously angry, or overwhelmingly sad, or any number of potent (and, honestly, super new) feelings that they have no idea how to handle. During these meltdowns, things escalate extremely quickly because, in addition to the original emotion, the child in question is now overwhelmed by the sheer volume of feelings they are experiencing. Suddenly, what started as a small inconvenience or setback feels like the end of the world, and, for the kids, there’s just no way out. At this point, my wife, K, will rush in with a hug and do her best to comfort the child. And while she’s talking to them and trying to ease them back down to earth, she will often tell them a simple thing that I think we as adults often forget:
It’s ok to have big feelings.
I don’t know why, but the first time that K told me about this quiet reassurance I was astounded by the beautiful simplicity of the sentiment.
I mean, how often do we have big feelings that we don’t really know how to handle? I know, personally, I often get overwhelmed by the weight of my responsibilities, or stress, or anger about things going on in the world around me. When my depression has been super bad, or when I eat my way through a period of stress (I’m talking unlimited baked goods for weeks and pizza for dinner multiple nights in a row), or even when I feel overly proud about something good that’s happened, I tend to feel guilty because I’m not as in control of my emotions as I “should” be. At these times I have to try really hard to remind myself that it’s ok to have big feelings, and that what matters is what we do with them. Because, as adults, we have options at our disposal during these times that K’s toddlers don’t. And, unless we’re careful, those options can have lasting consequences.
Think about it for a minute.
Do you sometimes drink too much to dull the pain of loss, or stress, or hurt? Or do you, as I often do, lash out at the people you love because you’re just so overwhelmed and feel bad about feeling bad? How many of us say terrible, horrible, things to ourselves when we are frustrated by our own lack of emotional “control”? I know I certainly do. Individually, these actions are relatively harmless, but, over time, they can do lasting damage.
So, I guess, consider this me swooping in with with one of K’s hugs. Maybe you’re not experiencing any right now (or maybe you are), but I want to remind you that it’s ok to have big feelings. I know that sometimes they can be overwhelming, or scary, or painful, or any number of things, but I think it’s really, really important that we allow ourselves to feel them. It’s ok. More importantly, it’s healthy. If you’re experiencing something bigger than you know how to handle, reach out. If someone in your circle is struggling, check on them. Emotions can be hard, but I promise we’ll be ok.
Thanks for reading, you’ve got this,