We finally went to see Inside Out last weekend. Have you seen it yet? I loved it. Not only was the movie all about emotions, but it took me on a rollercoaster of emotions as well. Like I said, I loved every moment of it. That might be the psychologist in me though.
The entire time I was watching this movie I was thinking every parent needs to see this. I mean, yeah it’s a cute movie, but it also digs into the complexities of emotions. A child talking back is often more than just a bad behavior, it’s an expression of frustration or something deeper. Maybe there was a big change, such as what happened in the movie, or maybe they are struggling in school? There could be any number of reasons and sometimes kids just don’t have the emotional equipment to deal with those things. Sometimes they don’t even realize what the deeper issue is until you talk about it.
I remember when my husband deployed for the second time and I was left home to care for our girls, both were under the age of three at the time. Lena turned one while Nick was away. I know my kids and I knew them back then too. I knew their personalities and their behaviors and when they started acting out, I knew it was because they missed their dad. It wasn’t just because of their age. Their world, small as it was at the time, was turned upside down. One of their favorite, if not their absolute favorite, people in the world was no longer there to greet them every day, snuggle up to read books or tuck them in with kisses for bedtime. They were sad, confused, lonely, upset, angry, frustrated, scared and who knows what else. Their entire world looked different.
Person after person chastised my parenting and told me I was too easy on them, they needed to be punished, I needed to teach them not to do these things and how to act properly. I defended my parenting and my kids behavior to the end and not one person understood my side of the story. I like to think if they watched Inside Out with me back then, maybe, just maybe they would get it. Maybe they would understand that when you take one of the closest people to a child away from them for a year, yeah, they’re going to have some pretty strong emotions about that and they’re not going to know how to deal with it.
I didn’t have to defend my parenting, but I was fighting a one sided battle and didn’t know what else to do. It was everyone in the world who thought they knew better than me, and then me all alone fighting this parenting battle on my side of the line. It’s difficult to stick with a parenting decision when you’re not even sure it’s the right one. I mean, I’d only been a parent for a little under three years. I didn’t know everything, and I still don’t know everything. When I’m a grandmother, sure I’ll know quite a bit, but I won’t know everything. What made all of these other people who saw my children in passing think they knew my kids and their behaviors better than I did? Did they think I wasn’t functioning properly because of my husband’s deployment? That may have been true on some level, but when it came to the kids, I was an eagle. I noticed everything. Every little detail. I even caught my daughter’s lazy eye before the eye doctor did. He didn’t catch it until the follow up visit. That’s how close I watched my kids and paid attention to the details.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I know I wasn’t a perfect mother at the time. Whatever that means. I know I made some mistakes. I didn’t always get the diapers taken to the trash can and my house sometimes smelled. I didn’t always get all the crumbs picked up from snack time and we had ants. It happens. Sometimes I just didn’t want to deal with the stress of the world and I’d lock myself in my room (don’t worry, the kids were safe).
What I got right, though, the thing I know I got right and it was the most important thing in the world for me to get right, is the emotional care of my kids. I knew they were going through one of the hardest things they could ever go through and they had more complex emotions swimming through those little heads than they could contain. I knew that the frustration, fighting, yelling and sometimes tantrums that weren’t normal for my kids were an expression of those emotions.
Because of that I worked my darndest to talk to my kids. I let them know that there are times when we’re going to go through some tough times and there are going to be some tough emotions to work through. We’re not always going to know how to handle them, but I was going to help them work through things now so they could learn how to handle them on their own and learn what they needed to do to choose a different coping mechanism the next time. They were little. They were kids. They were babies still. But they got it.
I don’t mean those little talks fixed everything. We still had melt downs, we still had talking back, we still had throwing things and we still had judgemental people telling me I was doing it all wrong. What they got was that this was a tough situation and mom was there to help them get through it. Mom wasn’t going to judge them while they learned how to navigate this difficult world of emotion. Mom was going to be there to support them and guide them to better choices in the future. Mom was there for them. They got it.
They got it so much that even now, my kids are able to come to me after expressing their frustrations about something big to them in a not so constructive way, and they have learned they can say “mom, I need a hug. I need help. I *whatever the problem is*.” My kids are talking to me when it matters. They are asking me to help them through their emotions because they recognize these outbursts aren’t like them. They know there is something going on and even when they don’t know what it is, they still come to me and ask for help to figure it out so they can learn to handle it better next time.
I got it right. If I didn’t get anything else right in this whole parenting gig, this is the one thing I know I got right and more than anything it makes me proud of my kids for getting it. For knowing that even when it’s hard, sometimes you need to ask for help to work through the rough patches.
Sometimes you need to let other people know you’re sad or upset in order to get things moving back on the right track.
Inside Out? Yeah, every parent needs to watch this movie. It may not be the most scientific explanation of emotions, but it does a great job of visually demonstrating just how complex they are and how there is often a lot more to those outbursts kids, or anyone for that matter, have besides what you see on the surface.
Seriously. If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch Inside Out. It’s a fantastic movie with some great characters. Every parent needs to watch this movie.
Have you watched Inside Out? What are your thoughts on the movie? Share them in the comments below.