“Feelings are just visitors, let them come and go.”
I heard A crying, and when I looked over I saw him laying on the ground, face down. I went over to him and sat down beside him. I did a quick scan and didn’t see anything physically wrong with him, though it appeared like he might have been hurt.
I have been thinking a lot about how often we hold these toddlers that are constantly stuck between wanting to be independent and wanting to be cared for in a way that is familiar to them. I have decided to think more intentionally each time I am about to hold a child – and this time, I chose against it.
I saw next to A and said, “I heard you are upset. I am right here if you need me. You are crying.” A said, “I am not okay.” I replied, “You are not okay. Is there something I can do to help you?” A said, “I am not okay.” then returned to crying. I moved closer to him, but refrained from scooping him up. Eventually, he stood up and said, “I want my mommy.”
I said to A, “You are upset and you want your mommy.” A started to walk away and so I followed, though not too closely. He was still crying and every now and then would say, “I want momma.” or “I am not okay.”
After a minute or so he turned to face me and paused crying. I said, “Is there something I can do to help you?” A said, “No, I want my mommy.” I said, “You want your mommy, which isn’t something I can give you.” A said, “Yes.” Then after awhile, he said, “I am still not okay.” He resumed crying, while he walked to a bench. I followed.
When we both sat on the bench, he stopped crying and said, “I am not okay.” I said, “You are still not okay. You are still feeling upset. I am not sure why you are feeling upset, you don’t have to tell me. I am just going to sit with you while you feel upset.”
A cried for another moment before putting his hands on my knees. He said, “I don’t say why I am upset.” I said, “You haven’t said why you are upset. You don’t have to. You could say, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.'” A replied, “I can say I don’t want to talk about it. I can say GO AWAY.” I answered, “That is another thing you say, you could say, “Please go away, I don’t want to talk.”
A then said both of these phrases under his breath a few times. He then said, “I want to feel sad.” I responded, “You want to feel sad right now. I understand. I feel that way sometimes, especially after I get hurt or something makes me sad. I just want to sit with my sadness for a little bit.” A said, “Sometimes you want to feel sad.”
A then climbed into my lap and said, “I am okay. I want to feel sad.” He didn’t cry anymore, he just sat.
After a minute, or maybe even less, A turned to me with a smile, “I am okay. I want to feel happy.” He looked around the playground, spotted some friends and said, “I want to run.”
And then he did.