What’s it like for you when you feel disappointment? What have you noticed it’s like for your child? In my experience, disappointment can feel crushing to them. Especially when it’s around something they’ve been looking forward to for awhile.
I remember homeschooling my youngest son when we’d arranged a time for him to hang out with his friends. He didn’t get to do this as often as my older children had, because they had attended public schools. When the arrangements fell through he felt crushed.
He ran to his room and lay crying on his bed "But we planned it in advance! It's not fair!”
At the time I paused a moment to acknowledge my own visceral response, I noticed my heart was racing and my breathing was shallow. I placed my hand on my heart, and closed my eyes to focus inward, I focused on my breath and tracked my body sensations. My gut and shoulders had clenched tight, and the flavor of emotion was near panic and despair.
Just dipping into the sensations and naming the emotions silently to myself, I remember I felt a release from the pain. When I named to myself how much I valued heart connection and harmony, my heart rate slowed and my shoulders relaxed. I felt solid ground under my feet once more.
I remember I moved and sat beside Rylan and laid my hand on his back. I could feel the waves of emotion as they rolled through him, it was like shock waves on my heart and soul.
I silently acknowledged how shocking it must be for him to hear his friend's mom had canceled coming over, due to an unexpected snow storm. I also silently acknowledged how much he needed consistency, predictability and the joy and fun of friendship!
As I sat with him silently, the depth of his mourning pierced my heart, and the pitch of his cries impaled my ears, I felt myself begin to slide into overwhelm.
Slowly I moved away from my son's side and told him, "Mommy needs a little space for a moment or two."
I retreated to the basement and systematically began to fold laundry as I tuned into my inner experience again. I began to hear the story I was telling myself, "it's just too hard, too much, too loud, way too loud!" Tears sprang to my eyes as I tuned into the resonate waves of big emotional energy that emanated from my son, the depth of his despair, and the need for mourning.
I asked a very tender part of myself, "Is it that you would like to remain fully present within your sense of self in order to provide the one who is your son consistent, resonant attunement and support?"
Before I could go further, Rylan walked into the room, he sat on the couch and calmly looked up at me. He tipped his head ever so slightly and asked, "Now, Mother, was that a little thing or a big thing?"
As I met his gaze I felt a shift into surprise and relief sprang up within me. "Thank you for asking. Let's see, it seems a little thing until it happens repeatedly and suddenly it feels quite big."
"Thank you for asking, I really like your question," I spontaneously I reached out to invite a handshake and asked, "have we met previously? Your name is...?"
"Rylan." He smiled, just slightly, as he politely shook my hand.
"And how old are you?" I asked.
"Twelve, almost thirteen."
"I'm so pleased to meet you. I have seen you around once in a while, but there is something different happening here. This is the first time you have initiated a conversation with me like this. I'd really like to have more conversations with you, and spend more time with you, is that a possibility?"
He smiled wide, and sat up even straighter, and his chin tipped up when he replied, "Why yes, I would enjoy more conversations with you too. This is how Ken talks with me!" (Ken was the facilitator of his weekly social skills group.)
I smiled back and affirmed, "Yes, I heard you and Ken talking at group last week, I'd like to hear more about that. I'm curious, would you be available to help with a little guy that lives here? He needs lots of love and support as he finds his way. He sometimes gets overwhelmed with disappointment and really needs to know how much he matters and that he's not all alone in the world."
"Yes." He replied, "I know that little boy." His facial expression softened, as he reflected for a moment. "When I know a friend is coming over I feel so good inside, like I missed having a friend so much, and I'm so happy. And when you tell me he can't come, it's like a volcano inside," he reflected a moment, "not really a volcano, more like blowing bubbles in chocolate milk. Yeah," he raised his eyebrows and brightened, "like a bubble inside that's a three! And then it grows bigger into a four and then a five! And it nearly bursts, but it doesn't, yeah, that's it!"
"Wow, Rylan! This is huge that you are telling me this! You have never expressed your inner experience like this to me before! This really helps me to understand what was happening for you, and just how big it felt. And, I celebrate with you that your "Young Man" really "gets" "Little Rylan" and he is right here and right now sharing your inner experience with me!"
He smiled even wider and with joy acknowledged, "I'm getting so integrated, aren't I mom!"
I agreed as I embraced him in a monster mommy hug, "You bet you are sweetheart! You bet you are!”
Fresh metaphors, visual imagery, or poetry are forms of resonance language that allow people to connect with the felt-sense of one another. It empowers us with the experience of sensing that another being fully understands us and sees us with emotional warmth and generosity. Everyone needs that experience.