Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A sensitive soul

I watch Alyce draw pictures all day long. She's one of those kids (I imagine there are others) who spends most of her time creating. No matter the material, no matter the canvas, no matter if it is Mama's rather expensive Moleskin day planner in red that she splurges on once a year, Alyce will draw and colour and paint her way through any mood. If Alyce is having a particularly trying day we can usually reset ourselves with a good colouring session.

You know how some people will tell you that you marry your father? Well, you know, not actually your father (though Alyce often loudly complains that she wanted to be the one to marry Papa), but someone who shares in the same qualities, suggesting, maybe, that we're not good with change. We marry, we are told, someone who repeats those moods and emotions that we've come to know and rely on, even sometimes the ones we'd rather have left behind. It turns out, I'm realizing, that we also give birth to ourselves. That is, when I'm laughing or arguing or dancing with Alyce, I'm staring at a miniature version of myself.

I don't mean that she looks like me, though I think she does. In her first years she had Matt's features and colouring, but all that is changing now. Her eyes are changing from blue to hazel and she's growing freckles at the tops of her cheeks (I have her convinced that she's been stealing my freckles in our sleep, pulling them off my skin and relocating them on hers). What I'm talking about is watching Alyce feel things the way I did, the way I still do. Alyce is sensitive with a capital everything, intensely aware of how everyone else in a room is feeling. If she senses that I'm upset with something she'll ask me over and over again about my own mood. Why are you making that face, Mama? Why aren't you talking, Mama? Why are you saying it like that, Mama? To this day I experience the world this way (ask Matt how delightful it can be sometimes). Being so hyperaware of other people's moods makes me empathetic, a good mediator, and generally a nice person to be around. But this sensitivity also lends itself to insecurity (because I'm so concerned with how other people are feeling things, including how they are feeling me) and obsession with making people happy.

I wonder how this will develop for Alyce.  No matter what we share, fortunately for Alyce, she also shares Matt's secrets, too. Will she hold on to her sensitivity and take on the stress of the world around her? Will she use her feelings to forge the closest of friendships like I did? And most relevant to our parent-child relationship, will we continue to use this hypersensitivity to add drama to all of our interactions? You see, two sensitive souls can enjoy so much together, throwing ourselves into the most wonderful of feelings, but we can also fight hard. I forget sometimes that my Alyce is only four, and so when she does things to hurt my feelings (the way all four year olds do from time to time), I feel it deeply. And then she feels it deeply. And then, well, you can imagine where this goes.

What do you share with your children? Does it change the way you parent? I think it might be changing the way I do things, or, at least, the way I'm understanding what's going on between me and my children.

P.S. That's a portrait of me at the top. I like how she captured my eyelashes. If only they were so long.

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