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."