“These memories are making me sad. I don’t know why, but I’m crying.”
Ah, the sensitive child. The kind that cries looking at the past notes in her agenda. The one who gets emotional watching movies and says “I don’t know why but I can’t help but cry” when the characters feel the same way. That deep, empathetic love for all creatures and genuine hurt when others are hurting. We always said she was a child with Big Feelings, and her biggest of all is love.
I don’t get it.
As a child, I sometimes had Big Feelings too. We all did. I was raised in a way that told me that my feelings weren’t valid, and instead the Scary Thoughts and Dark Feelings kept me awake as anxiety induced insomnia and night terrors. Emotions I repressed during the day bottled up deep inside, only to be released days, weeks, even years later. When the words “don’t cry, it’s a sign of weakness” echoed in my mind and ingrained into my soul. I listened to the words “be a man, toughen up” intently and internalized those as desirable traits, likely a result of my repressed gender identity.
Stereotypes would have you believe that my high intelligence is the direct cause of my cold, analytical, and often emotionless exterior. Perhaps that’s true, or maybe it was my “don’t show emotion” upbringing, but either way feeling is not something that comes particularly naturally to me. I fake emotions and force myself to respond in ways I know are socially acceptable, learning early on that you are not very well liked if you don’t act like a human. Somewhere over the years I earned myself the nickname “robot” from my husband, who this day still struggles to understand my logical approach vs his emotional one.
I envy him. When the children have these Big Feelings, the ones over something sentimental or irrational, he can understand them perfectly. When they need a warm embrace, he’s happy to put his arms around them, and not just for a quick moment. I’m not too busy, no, I just hate to be hugged. Being touched out is absolutely a thing, but I hate it from the very moment. After about age 4 I really struggle to be close to my children physically and emotionally. His connection to them only grows.
Of course, I am not without feeling. I have them, many of them, and sadly the same child has developed my anxieties. When the poor girl lies in wake terrified of death, I can completely relate. I feel for her. When the toddler throws a tantrum because she’s tired, I have tremendous patience. I logically understand why she’s upset. My overly emotional husband? Well he reacts emotionally. His favourite feeling is anger, it seems. I’m not going to lie, I yell at my kids from time to time, but true anger is something I almost never feel. The pendulum swings both ways.
I didn’t answer her, so she continued.
“I know” I tell her coldly. I did try to sound caring, but years of ‘feedback’ have told me I always come across as cold and heartless. “I’m sorry to hear that” I add after a long pause.
She probably thinks I care more about my phone than her. I do care. I really, truly care about her and her well being. It’s been a long day and the huge amount of energy it takes me to pretend to understand her emotions just wasn’t there.
At bedtime, my 6 year old son begs me to cuddle with him. I perform the goodnight hug-kiss ritual the child of routine has mastered, before telling him no and saying goodnight. I hate cuddling. I hate it so much.
Maybe one day I can write to them. Write the words I’ll never be able to say, explain the feelings I’ll never be able to feel. Tell them I love them, hope that they understand my words are the feelings I cannot express any other way. Until then I will keep trying. Children, being the emotional, self centred creatures they are, cannot fathom other people feel differently than them. What they need is kindness and understanding, two things I offer in very short supply, but continue to provide over and above my innate abilities. I pray they don’t see me as superficial and fake, although I often am. I beg my moments of sympathy provide them the comfort they’re desperately searching for. It’s my wish they grow up feeling validated and keep feeling those Big Feelings. One day those will turn into Love.