My work here is done

Kostyn wandered out of his room after naptime the other day looking dazed and fragile. Sometimes he bounds out with a smile, but other times he needs just the right words and just the right cuddles for just the right amount of time before he’s ready to return to his day.

This was one of those times, and he was barely out of the hallway when something happened — I looked at him too soon or didn’t look at him soon enough or said the wrong thing with the wrong tone of voice — and he lost it. The crying turned to screaming and then quickly to whining, as I scooped him up and he wriggled out of my arms and onto the couch.

I crouched in front of him, trying to be attentive but not suffocating.

“Are you sad?” I asked, as this often gets him to stop crying and start talking about, and recognizing, his emotions.

“Yeaaaah,” he whimpered.

“It’s OK to be sad,” I said. “Is there anything I can do to help you?”

“Nooo. I’m still sad. And nothing can’t make me sad, not Mommy or Daddy or Evan or Sadie or the cat,” he said, letting me know he was not about to be cheered up.

“You’re right,” I said, seizing the moment. “Only you can decide to be happy. Isn’t that great? You can decide to be happy!”

He looked at me with interest.

“Do you want to be happy?” I asked.

“Yeaaaah,” he whined, his bottom lip still sticking out.

“Well, you can be. It’s totally up to you. How about we count. I’ll count to .... let’s see.... six. I’ll count to six, and then you can decide to be happy!”

He straightened up and watched me intently.

“One ... two ... three ... four ... five ... six!” I didn’t get a smile, but the bottom lip had vanished. “Did you decide to be happy?”

“No, not yet,” he said.

“Want me to count again?”


“OK, here goes: One. Two. Three. Four. Five. SIX!” I said, waving my hands in the air and waiting for the magic.

And it came.

“I’m happy!” he said, beaming that smile that makes me fall in love with him every day.

“Wow, Kostyn, you did it! See? You decided to be happy. It’s all up to you. What a big boy!”

“Yeah!” he said.

It was one of those moments I was proud of as a mom, to not just be teaching him to recognize his feelings but to accept them for what they are — not good or bad, just feelings. And above all, to let him know that happiness comes from within, that he doesn’t need people or pets or toys or promises to make him smile. He just needs to decide to do it.

But I’m posting this mostly so I’ll remember to count to six sometimes too.


Maestra said...

You are an AWESOME Mom!

Sheila said...

A good reminder for me too. Thanks :).

Lyn said...

Wow...what a great story! That is an amazing way to handle that...I am truly impressed!

Dee said...

OK you need to write that one in your next book....Dummies....hmmmm. wisdom for mothers!!!