“I can’t go to school today. I don’t have socks that are silly enough for Silly Sock Day”. 6-year-old Pumpkin Boy’s words came raggedly out through sobs. “I need to stay home”.
It had been a rough morning so far. We were 17 minutes into PB’s meltdown, and I could feel my irritation growing. It had taken 42 minutes for him to get dressed already.
” I’m parent helping in your classroom today. People are counting on us to be there. We need to go.”His sniffles, and sobs continued as I planned a different negotiating tactic.
“Gosh! You’re going to make us late to school,” Third Son yelled at him.
“I can’t believe you’re being so selfish,” Second Son added.
“It doesn’t even matter if you wear silly socks. Nobody cares,” First Son chimed in.
We were all out of patience.
I wanted to yell, but I knew that wouldn’t help the situation. Six years mothering my gifted highly sensitive child has taught me that only escalates the situation. I asked the triplets to wait in the car.
I have been working on how to parent with empathy, and it’s not easy.
Like many gifted people, I am a Highly Sensitive Person. I feel emotions deeply, especially of those around me.
Over the years, I have learned to embrace this aspect of my personality. Being an HSP makes me a better writer. I am an advocate for social injustice. I am a caring friend. I cry at all the sentimental moments in movies.
Being a HSP, and parenting highly sensitive children has been my biggest parenting challenge. (That’s the polite way of saying I feel like I am overwhelmed as a parent drowning in a sea of emotions with no hope of catching a breath.)
Over this past year, I’ve been contemplating how I can be connected, and feel empathy too, for so many people, but I struggle to parent with empathy. Until the past few months, it’s been a struggle to feel joy parenting my boys.
My first instinct, when I hear my 6-year-old wailing about socks, is irritation, followed by anger.
When I experience the highly sensitive, intense, emotional portions of my boys’ personalities, especially PB, because we are so much alike, I have difficulty coping with it.
I don’t understand it.
It doesn’t make sense.
It’s not logical.
The 10-year-old gifted girl Jen inside of me, with a fixed mindset, takes over. I’m right. Everyone else is wrong. Choosing socks should not be so difficult.
It’s hard not letting it overwhelm me. All 4 of my boys are highly sensitive.
And so am I.
I’ve learned this past year about how to parent with more empathy. It hasn’t been easy, and I still have a long way to go before I become the parent I aspire to be.
- My children’s emotions are not mine own. With four boys, one of them is usually having an off day. It rotates. Thankfully, it is rarely the same child two days in a row. If they are all okay, chances are I may be struggling. I used to take it personally when my kids were cranky or ornery. I thought it was my job to fix it as their mother, and help them be happy. It’s not. Balancing my own well being is tricky enough. I don’t need the added pressue of four other people.
- Find the root of what’s really going on, and address it. With PB, it wasn’t about silly socks. He woke up an hour earlier than normal, from a bad dream, and was tired. Also, First Son was wearing my Star Trek socks with Dr. Spock on them. They have 3-D ears that stick out. They are pretty rad, and he was jealous.
- Choose to Focus on Joy. I believe that regardless of what happens in our lives, we can choose to focus on the good. We have control over our perspective. We can choose to focus on the negative, or focus on the joy. I have been working to celebrate and show gratitude for the simple and small beautiful aspects of parenting.
After I sent the other boys out to the van, I held PB. He doesn’t let me do that very often now that he’s six, and a first grader. I remembered him as the tiny, dark haired baby I held in my arms.
I rocked him.
I quietly apologized for losing my temper.
I told him that I loved him, kissed the top of his head, and he began to calm down.
We chose a pair of socks together for him to wear. I helped him put them on.
When we got out to the van, the boys started to vent their irritation, before I calmly stopped them.
“Boys, he’s just having a rough day today. You know what it feels like to have a rough day, right? We might be late today, but it’s okay. Thank you for being patient. I really appreciate you waiting in the van while I helped him put on his socks. ”
The tension in the van subsided. All four boys were happier.
And so was I.
We even made it to school before the tardy bell.
Genealogy Jen’s Challenge of the Week – What do you do to show empathy to those you love? How has it strengthened your relationship?
This post is part of Hoagies’ Gifted Education monthly blog hop series. This month features articles about emotional intelligence and empathy. We could all use more. Click here or the graphic below to read more from the talented other writers: