We all have different ways of letting off steam. Some people de-stress by knitting, others like to take it to the gym. I personally have always found writing to be therapeutic (surprise), for J it’s playing guitar. Not that it’s limited to one activity, but I think it’s important that we find ways to connect with our emotions and clear our minds every once in a while.
Z has been at an interesting stage lately. He still has meltdowns, but he’s the only one I don’t have to worry about throwing an uncontrollable fit when it’s time to leave the park. It’s a beautiful thing to watch this level of control develop. Some days are better than others, but it won’t be long before he catches up to J in terms of temper tantrums (okay, I’m kidding). Besides just managing emotions, I have noticed something else. He is finding his own unique way of self expression.
Several months ago (Just before Z turned 6) he began to secretly write some of his frustrations out on paper when he was mad or upset. I know a lot of children do this, but as far as my observation among my friends it’s especially common for girls. The one that made me cry was when his grandparents were in town. It was time for them to head back to Texas so we walked down to their mini van and said our goodbyes. Z seemed totally fine, but after a while of not hearing a peep out of him I peeked in his room. I noticed he was drawing and I asked him about it.
He showed me a picture of the family crying in-between the van and the apartment building. I said, you miss grandma don’t you? That’s when the big tears that had been forming became too heavy to hold back anymore, and he just broke down. We called grandma and she suggested he count down the days until our Christmas trip to Texas and mark them off daily.
Z responded well to that idea. Later we printed December off the computer and he drew a car on the day that we were leaving and returning and put happy faces on the days we would be there.
This wasn’t the only time he used drawing/writing to express his emotions, but it’s not always this sweet. Sometimes when Z is mad at me he will disappear to his room and write something like “I wish I was never born” or “dad is bad” or one time I found the words “I don’t like mom” crumpled up on the floor after we had a big argument. I picked it up, flattened it out and read it, but he very defensively said he was joking. I told him that I didn’t believe that and I was sad that he felt that way, but if he was ready we could talk about it. Then he said “Well, I didn’t mean it. That’s why it’s trash.” We talked about it and everything was fine. Even when it is hurtful I encourage this type of outlet because we all have to vent, and he is finding a healthy way to decompress at a very young age. How awesome is that?
I get it, because it is JUST LIKE ME. I received my first journal when I was in 2nd grade. It was a Secret Garden journal from my aunt in California. I got it for Christmas and it even had a lock and key! Then when I was in high school I started writing poetry. I have a little notebook full of pages of poetry. Poem after poem of all of my hopes, fears, and pain. Some of them were really dark. Thank goodness I used journals to cope instead of drugs right? Actually, I was never offered drugs. Still, I like to believe I chose to stay away from them (wink wink).
Yesterday after being told he was done playing the wii for the day, and then throwing a monstrous baby fit about it, he was sent his room. Moments later a paper airplane crashed just short of me with a message on it.
With broken spelling it said “If you treat me that way then I guess you don’t care about me and I see you don’t love me either” on the back it said “read and then sign here _________”. So I signed it and wrote “I will always care about you and love you no matter what, in good times and bad”. Then he signed it and wrote “thanks for the note” We had a talk about whether his behavior was respectful or disrespectful and he recognized his poor choices and that was our big melt down for the day. It was dramatic for sure, but a lot of maturity has happened in the past two years.
I mention this because Z, as the first born, has been quite the pioneer in teaching me when to expect what as far as age appropriate development. When babies are too young to talk we understand that they are frustrated because they cannot communicate with us. Then around two, three, four (you know that blissful stage of cooperation) they can talk and so all should be well, right? First of all we are always a work in progress so there is never a certain point that you arrive and no one ever has to deal with your crap anymore, but beyond that let’s go back to the first paragraph. How do three year olds de-stress? How do they cope? They can’t blog, they can’t go shopping, or go for a hike. They can jump around and scribble. I am sure that helps, but my point is, what if the the thing that they were inherently born with that allows them to feel a sense of relief and self gratification is not developed or discovered yet. It makes it a little easier to sympathize with them instead of just getting frustrated that they are so frustrated so often. I know there is a lot more to it than that, and I am no psychiatrist, but in the mean time I can have some grace and patience for these little bitties (and bigger kids too). In the same way that I don’t demand that a 10 month old “use their words”, a can’t expect my two year old to have a mature sense of self expression.
I would encourage you as your child gets to be around the age of 5 (according to The 5 Love Languages of Children) to see if you can recognize what activity, hobby, or interest is their healthy outlet. What can you do to nurture that God given desire in them? Or maybe you are still in search for that thing yourself. Either way we all get cranky, we are all progressing, and we all need grace.
One of Z’s first stories- The dog is red. The sky is blue. The sky is cool blue. The dog is red. I love the dog. He is my pet. The end.