I was sitting with my friend outside, talking and watching our children play. Next to us, on a big grassy field, was a dad with two little children. We were chatting, our children were playing, he was playing with his kids. Suddenly something happened and one of his little people started crying.
He stopped slowly, bent down, kneeled on the grass and picked up the crying child. Then held the child close and closed his eyes.
It felt as if the world stopped.
I almost held my breath.
It felt sacred.
As the child cried, the dad kept on breathing with his eyes closed and holding them. Then the child stopped and looked around. The world started moving again.
As I have been thinking about that moment for days after, I realised that it felt sacred because this is my biggest longing - to be welcome and accepted just as I am.
And I'm wondering if it is also yours?
And that experience does not happen once and for all, and in one big gulp, in a massive experience of something huge - it is in tiny moments of being held just as we are, and allowed to feel what we feel.
Moments like these, when children are allowed and supported to feel, and the experience of coming out on the other side, with the presence of an emotionally available adult, provides the following messages:
sadness, grief, disappointment (or whatever is being felt in the moment) are feelings that have a beginning and an end - they don't last forever (I am capable of feeling them and then coming out)
all feelings are welcome - therefore I am welcome just as I am (I don't have to twist myself into something I am not, for someone else)
my experiences are valid - I can trust myself
I can trust what my body is telling me (because my adult doesn't tell me not to) - if something feels off, odd, unsafe, I can trust that
If something feels too big for me to handle on my own - I can go to my adult and they will help. We want our children to come to us if anything goes wrong - it starts in moments like these.
Empathy doesn't have to come in words - it comes heart to heart.
May we all experiences hundreds and thousands of these moments, and provide them to those around us.
Janet Lansbury's posts around accepting our children's feelings: