My 5 year old, Ella is sensitive. Not in a bad, whiny sort of way – but in an intuitive sort of way. She knows when others are upset and easily picks up on their emotions. She has a caring heart. I love that about her.
Unfortunately, that sensitive side can be a bit of a nuisance when it challenges her personal feelings. She cries easily and tends to shut out others when she’s upset or disappointed. She hasn’t learned how to deal with those emotions.
I know the exact moment when she’s upset. I know when she’s quiet, or runs into her room, that someone hurt her feelings. I know, because she’s just like me. Or maybe I’m just like her. We both dislike mean; even though I’ve been on both the receiving and giving end of that emotion.
Maybe you’re like that too?
Ella had a mini-melt down last week. Her neighbor friends were playing in our home and I was supervising their interactions. At one point I saw Ella and her older friend having a lengthy conversation.
But they weren’t smiling.
A few minutes later, Ella was running upstairs after her friend. I followed closely and stopped her just before she walked out the front door. I saw the tears in her eyes, but she insisted she was OK. I gave her space – breathing moments – to calm down and gather her thoughts, knowing – in time – she would come back in to talk to me.
I gave myself the same breathing room only minutes prior to hers, but mine came after reading an e-mail. I tell you guys about these e-mails I get from strangers. Usually they are wonderful words of encouragement but every so often someone pulls out the dagger. I’m used to those. My TV years helped me build up thick skin.
But this one brought me down. They didn’t disagree with my opinions or even how I raise my children. Those comments usually roll off my back. Instead, this group of strangers quite bluntly told me to change the way I write or stop writing.
Maybe I was tired. Maybe I was super sensitive. Or maybe, it just hurt my feelings. Either way, the note made me cry. I was surprised how the tears flowed. It was the first comment in a very long time that made me take pause and wonder why I put myself out there each week to so many strangers.
I gave myself about 30 seconds of pity time but was then distracted by Ella and that mini-meltdown she was about to have. Once all was calm, I began to think of ways to respond to these strangers. I quickly planned a good come back – it was going to be funny and even a little bit snarky. I was excited to write it.
But then my 5 year old walked back through the front door. She walked over to me, grabbed my hand and led me into her bedroom. She was ready to talk.
And so was I.
We talked about how her feelings were hurt by her friend. She admitted that maybe she was being mean, too. We spent the next several minutes chatting about how important it is to be kind to others, and to treat people how you would like to be treated.
Later that evening, her friend rang our doorbell with a few yellow flowers in hand. Ella apologized, too. They continued to play like the disagreement never happened.
My 5 year old taught me something that day. I was going to respond to the e-mail. I was going to be mean, too. It’s easy to do that. It’s natural to do that. But I knew I would wake up on the mornings my columns were published, feeling badly about the way I responded. I also knew I wasn’t practicing the same advice I had just given my little girl.
I don’t like being cruel to others. I have a feeling, you don’t like it either. Sometimes, though we just need the subtle reminder.