I grew up not really speaking much about my feelings and I’ve really honed in on those skills over the past decade, so it’s become really important to me to make sure Leon has the skills and knows that it’s okay to speak his feelings. (Hypermasculinity ain’t a good look, yo.) Therefore, according to yours truly, 2018 is the Year of the Feelings in our household. Leon’s favorite bedtime book, Tough Guys Have Feelings Too, has probably more scotch tape than actual paper at this point, and he occasionally calms down from a tantrum just by hearing me recite the first few lines. That said, we’ve been dealing with some possible molars the past few days, and not even The Office theme song can calm that storm.
On my end, I’ve been reading No Bad Kids and How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen, and I’ve learned so much that I pretty much want to paste the cliffnotes on every surface of my house. (Side note: The more personal development books I read, the more of a hippie I become.) I previously thought I was doing well by asking Leon in a moment of distress, “What’s wrong? Are you having a hard time? Do you want me to fix it?”, but I’ve since learned that asking questions, being vague, and/or immediately trying to fix the problem is doing no one any favors. The more feelings I can actually name and the fewer questions I ask when he’s distraught, the better off we’ll be. If he learns to articulate what he’s feeling, he’s less likely to respond in an unfavorable way (e.g., kicking, hitting, biting). Well, in theory, as Minh would say.
Last night I was helping Leon with a wooden farm puzzle — the kind with the pegs and the pictures of what’s supposed to go where under each piece. I watched dumbfounded as Leon lifted the barn piece from its correct placement and tried to jam the rooster in the barn spot. He got the barn right when we were only working on that piece, so I guess he thought every piece was supposed to fit in that spot. Rinse and repeat for every. single. animal. After a few minutes he started getting frustrated when this method wasn’t working. This happened over the span of several minutes, so I had plenty of time to rehearse a response: “I can tell you’re frustrated. Puzzles can be really tricky! Sometimes they take a looooong time.” There might have been a twinge of facetiousness in my voice when I said that last bit, but for the most part I was sincerely practicing calling out what he was probably feeling.
Anyway, it’s a work in progress. We’ve been working a lot on positive feelings lately, and Leon loves clapping for himself. He’s been especially helpful in putting his unwanted food back in the bowl instead of throwing it all on the floor, and this morning he helped me pack for daycare by putting all his snack containers in his bag. He’s slowly (or maybe quickly) understanding more about the world and I’m cheering from the sidelines. Go Leon!