I want my son to know that it’s okay to be sad.
Although I am highly empathic, I’ve realized lately what a poor job I’ve done of sharing my true feelings with him in the past.
Since he was born, I’ve been dealing with either chronic illness or a destructive marriage, or both. I’ve worked very hard to protect him from the pain and trauma of it all. But maybe to a fault…
I just wanted him to have as normal of a childhood as possible. And he has actually had a very good childhood so far. As we heal from the destructive times, we are authentically connecting about real life more often. As I open up in healthy ways, he’s beginning to open up more too, and it’s wonderful!
But because of our history of pretending everything is okay, it’s still a challenge.
I’m definitely not pouring out all the details of my adult problems to my little buddy… but we are sharing more sad times and struggles, and it’s a good thing. I’m verbalizing that I’m not afraid to be sad, and how I process my sadness in a healthy way.
One day we were playing “school” in his room. He of course was the teacher, and I was the student. My assignment for “writing class” was to write a story. He gave me a piece of paper, and I wasn’t sure what to write. (It’s been a while since I played school!) But this is what came out:
The Willow Tree
by Kati Potratz
Once upon a time there was a boy who liked to sit under a willow tree and think.
One day he was sitting under his tree, thinking about how sad he was because his fish died. He noticed tiny drops of water beginning to fall from the tips of the willow leaves, landing softly all around him.
The boy asked, “What are you doing, Willow Tree?”
“I am weeping,” the tree answered, “for I can feel your sadness.”
The boy began to cry too.
So the willow tree stretched it’s long, sweeping leaves all the way down to the ground, to where the boy was sitting.
It wrapped its wispy leaves around the boy, and held him, and shared his sadness.
After resting in the arms of the willow, the boy felt much better. He walked home, thankful for his friend, the weeping willow.
From that day on, whenever the boy felt sad, he would sit under his willow tree and watch the beautiful, glistening tears as they fell freely from the leaves.
And sometimes, the boy cried too.
And he always felt much better.
I think my “teacher” liked the story because he wrote “Awesome!!” on it with a red marker. 🙂
I realized what I had written was a story about empathy for children. And now I’m publishing it here for you to enjoy or share with your kids. Maybe someday I’ll make it available in hard copy – with beautiful willow tree imagery!
How do you share your honest feelings and thoughts with your kids, without giving them too much burden to bear?
What lovely, expressive imagery. And from your little teacher an “awesome” rating – what a treasure. 🙂
Your words are so beautiful! And yes, I agree that it is a fine line between being honest with your kids and sharing too much. That recently happened with Caleb when he overheard us talking about our financial struggle….which led him to be worried we would be homeless. Everything is magnified in a child’s mind so it was very frightening for him. All we can do in those times is reassure them that even in the midst of our struggles and sadness, God is our constant. And he will take care of us. That response is not a cop-out, it is the truth.
So glad you were able to talk to him about it and reassure him with truth.