So, these were the words that sparked a longer spewing from Mama today…
BigGuy has, in the last year or so, lamented that nobody in the house pitied him. I definitely took pause at this when he started saying it and he was right: we didn’t comfort him in his upset as quickly as we were willing to comfort Girly. When I realized this, I was briefly overwhelmed with shame over it. I sat and analyzed why that was–why did we treat him differently??
Ultimately I concluded that it was several things that included a long history of developmental therapies where we had to force him to power through difficult sessions rather than scoop him up and coddle him. It. Was. Hard. He is where he is today for it, but it was against my core as a mother. I just loved my BigGuy.
The other part is that he is ALWAYS upset about something. BigGuy seems to have one mode and it is “glass half empty” and “the world is against me”. That mentality makes me ABSOLUTELY insane. I have no idea what to do with that so I just reacted to him instead of responding to him. Not good.
Still, I come from a pick-up-your-bootstraps family and I would like to instill that in my kids where it’s appropriate. Depression problems are not the place for that but most of life’s challenges are.
So today when my son tearfully lamented the lack of pity bestowed on him, I managed to collect myself and tell my son that he was right.
And that I would never pity him.
I explained to him that he would get empathy from me. I would try to understand and honor his feelings; but it would be followed by trying to help him. I would never pity him because that’s not helping him. As long as I can comfort him and understand his feelings, I didn’t understand the problem. Empathy meant that we would lay off of scolding him because we understood his feelings and his challenges–but it wasn’t giving up on him. It wasn’t feeling bad for him, giving a snuggle and moving on.
As I see it, pity is usually a passive sentiment: you feel badly for someone’s misfortune and maybe you do something to help–something small–but it’s not the kind of help that we offer our son by understanding instead of just seeing his upset and comforting him. We work to understand his feelings and the problems and then we move forward trying to find the resources and methods to support him and address the root cause.
BigGuy was shockingly engaged in listening to all of this. He wasn’t upset that I was talking instead of snuggling him. He wasn’t getting frustrated that he wasn’t “being heard”. He was vested in listening and it ended very strangely.
It ended with my son responding in a very mature way. With an obvious understanding.
Joke’s on me: nature showed me my kid as a mature young man. #uglycry