Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ella (A Lesson in Sensitivity)

I've described each of my girls a bit here, but in an effort to more fully bore and possibly horrify you with my parenting skills, I'm doing a two part series on what it's like mothering each girl individually. 

Ella feels. She feels everything. Her entire body reacts to each emotion she experiences and I swear there are times I can see the fervor of their currents coursing through her veins. She loves quickly and with a deep abiding loyalty. She is kind and compassionate and has a strong sense of right and wrong. Her outrage at injustice is not limited to acts committed against her, but instead pours out in defense of others around her.

Perceived rejection and slights are felt in her bones. Discipline or a rebuking word lay heavily on her heart, no matter the severity. Her feelings are big and expressive and often magnified beyond what the situation might normally call for.

In other words, Ella is a lot like I was as a kid.

So, that's fun.

It should be easy, knowing exactly what to do or say to this child who thinks and feels and reacts so similarly to how I did at her age. In theory, I should be the best person for the job. I should be able to remember with great, painful detail feeling like I was too sensitive, too dramatic, too emotional, too everything, for the people closest to me (I do). I know these things and I should be able to knock parenting out of the park. It should be a walk in the park.

It isn't (duh).

When she's angry or hurt and declaring that "everything I do is wrong!" I have to actively fight against my initial reaction to sigh loudly while rolling my eyes. I have to remind myself how it felt to have my feelings brushed aside by people I desperately wanted to please because I was being a "drama queen."

I have to bite my tongue instead of speaking harshly when what started out as a joke turns sour because she doesn't yet understand the difference between being laughed with and being laughed at.

I get it right maybe fifty percent of the time. I'm working on it.

I'm working on being steady and calm when she is flustered or a whirlwind of hot anger. To be a place of rest and peace when she's worn herself out. To match her excitement about the things that bring her joy. To laugh and gently tease out her goofiness so she can see the humor in laughing at yourself.

Because my goal with Ella is not to make her less sensitive. My goal is that she sees the beauty and strength in it, sees how the world can be changed by softness. My wish isn't that she doesn't feel so much or with such intensity, but that she isn't strangled by whatever emotion flits across her heart at any given moment. To not think, "too sensitive, too dramatic, too emotional, too everything," but think, "Just enough."


  1. I remember Ella from the nursery being just like this... Innocent, open, beautiful. You are the perfect Mama for her Emily, as you understand such sensitivity. I so miss my girls at that age, precious days.

    1. Thank you, Sue! I think those words (innocent, open, beautiful) perfectly describe her. :)

  2. I think this is really great-- the writing and the topic. Very interesting to explore, even as a non-parent. I was a lot like Ella (and you) as a kid, but I was pretty much just repeatedly told to toughen up. I won't lie- that did help me a lot in life in certain ways. But it wasn't until I was well into my mid 20s that I realized that I never learned how to properly handle my particularly overwhelming emotions, especially negative ones, in a healthy way. I'm having to teach myself that now. So it's really nice to see how you're trying to meet Ella at her level and have patience for something she can't quite understand yet. I read in a book recently that parenting provides an opportunity for parents to heal their own inner child through raising their own children. I won't pretend to know if that's accurate or meaningful, but it's a nice idea.

    I finally saw the comment you left me on my last comment (sorry terrible at technology), and YES I do remember our magazine!! I think I still have it somewhere in a box that is probably now at my Mom's house in Florida. Next time I'm down there I'll have to dig around for it and send it to you. It's pretty fantastic. Speaking of that class, that teacher kept giving me C-'s on all of my papers and I really internalized it and believed that I would never be more than a mediocre writer. I still fight that feeling today, and never actively pursued writing for pleasure in college or afterwards until very recently.

    Keep writing! I think you have so many great things to say and I love your posts. I don't have to be a mom or share your experiences to be right there with you. Maybe one day write a book?

    1. I was often made to feel that being emotional meant I wasn't being rational at all. I spent a lot of time thinking I couldn't be emotional and smart, which means I spent a lot of time feeling dumb, It's an easy way for someone to negate your opinion or feelings by calling you a "drama queen" (that term still makes me cringe to this day. It's off limits in our house as a direct result of being called it as a kid). I'm in the same boat of relearning the proper way to deal with my emotions, but I'm also learning to not take responsibility for people putting their issues on me when they improperly handle their own emotions. It's so fun and I'm just loving the process. ;)

      I think that quote (about healing our inner child through parenting) is pretty spot on. It's healing and also a little insanity inducing. ;)

      Thanks again for reading and for your feed back and insight. I'm a bit of a stalker of your FB page and always appreciate the heart in your posts. I would love to read more from you. I hope you write more, and allow people to read it.

      (A book one day is one of those quiet, terrifying hopes I harbor. We'll see)

  3. What a beautiful family! Great post!