Here's the third and final vignette in my three-part blog series on delightful expressions of emotional health and capacity in children, ones that surprise and hearten us amidst the journey of helping them develop emotional intelligence (you can find the first one here and the second one here). This one was shared with me by a fellow mother about her daughter:
Since she is little, Maggie loves visiting stores with cuddly, soft stuffies, pretty shiny things, cute booklets, dollies, and the wide array of beautiful, creative toys and trinkets available in certain stores - these things make their way into her heart on a weekly basis when she goes to town with her mother. For the past few years, each time they are in town, she has felt compelled to get something, one thing. Sometimes her mother has acquiesced. Other times she hasn't. Quietly her mother has wondered (and at times worried) why her daughter feels such a need to have and get all this stuff. "Have we raised her too materialistically?" "Why this drive to consume?" "She has so much already".
Her mother would talk to her about other realities across the planet, children playing with whatever is present in their immediate surroundings... rocks, sticks, one simple doll. She would remind her of all her beautiful and cherished things at home. She would acknowledge how her daughter felt, and also encourage her to say "bye bye" and imagine how happy the particular item was, staying in the store shelf with its "friends". Maggie would listen. She would say "bye bye". She tried. And she also kept on wanting and insisting.
Then one day, they are in a store and 7-year old Maggie has once again "fallen in love" with a "very special fluffy, and oh so soft and cuddly bunny". Her mother notes how soft it is, and encourages her to come along now. She turns to walk to the door, and as she looks back to see if her daughter is following her, she notices her still standing in front of the "lovely bunny", her focus quiet and intent, her lips moving softly, her two hands moving to her heart. Then, with easy willingness, Maggie turns to her mother and they leave the store together without another backward glance. What brought about this unexpected and welcome change?
"What did you do?" Her mother asks, curious about this sudden transformation.
"I figured out a trick for when I really want something and can't have it", Maggie responds.
"Oh, that sounds wonderful. Would you mind telling me your trick?" her mother inquires further, now even more intrigued.
"Sure," Maggie replies nonchalantly. "This is what I do now every time I want something and don't need it or can't have it. I say to myself: 'The whole wide world is mine -- kiss -- hug -- God bless you', and then I feel fine not having it. It helps me let go of it. Somehow it's in me."
Her mother nods, impressed, and on they go.
What a gorgeous example of emotional regulation. Of finding a creative way forward, by embracing the world in a wider circle, accepting what cannot be changed, releasing the desire and transforming it into a different experience of resolution. Giving in, but not giving up. Even blessing in the process!
And now to you: Please share your own vignettes, the little and big ways you notice your child growing up emotionally, gradually discovering how to neither disconnect from feelings nor to identify with them, but to be present with them, learn from them, regulate, and keep going.
Let's gather stories of emotional health and intelligence - stories of our children being tender and tuned in. Let's celebrate these gems and inspire each other.
Even as we all know that there are many stumbles along the way to emotional intelligence and wisdom (the journey to developing emotional intelligence is a long and windy one), it is so helpful to get a fuller sense of what is possible and what emotional health looks like in action.
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