My Emotionally Intelligent Princess

Before Zy died, I had a super crazy amount of energy. I was up most mornings before the girls, usually by 4:30am. Five days out of seven, the girls were with me all day. Two, sometimes three of those day I ran child focused groups of some kind that the girls attended too (obviously). At home I rarely slept during the day, even when the girls did. At night when I put the girls to bed, it was generally with the renewed energy of a second wind that came to me with the prospect of a couple of hours child-free time.
When I think about it now, the girls rarely saw me tired.

Since Zy died, I have been sleeping (or 'resting') a lot. Partly because my body is recovering from a c-section, but mostly in an attempt to deal with the grief. As the most acute grief passes, I am stepping back into life, and more importantly, stepping back into my role as sole carer of my girls.

My kewl girls are the most important people in my world and their well being - their happiness - is my greatest wish. On the other side of the coin, one of my greatest fears as a mother is that I will make my children miserable. The thought that my grief is something that will have a negative impact on them is one that I find quite sickening. Their life experiences already include the death of their father, and now the death of their surrogate baby brother. I would be absolutely mortified if they grew up with predominant memories of their mum as being sad and miserable.

So, with much conscious effort, every bit of good energy I have had recently has been going to the girls - to their well being and to their happiness. Apart from a not so great week leading up to New Year, I thought I was doing pretty well. When I am with the girls, I am always fully present and almost always 'in the moment'. There are many joyous times and even the times where the girls are pushing my (or each other's) buttons, I am aware of what they are doing and able to respond from a place of awareness, rather than react from a place of ignorance.
I am still sleeping more than I used to - I go to bed earlier, wake up later and sometimes sleep during the day - but I rarely choose to sleep when I could be spending time with the girls instead.

I thought that, as far as the girls were concerned, things were somewhat back to 'normal'.
Just like I thought that the current turmoil with Miss F was just a four year old phase.

It seems I thought wrong.

Me: "That's a very energetic picture Miss F. Can you tell me about it?"
Miss F: "Yes. It's me blowing a tree over with my nose."
Me: "Wow, blowing a tree over with your nose! That's some pretty good breathing! Why are you blowing the tree down?"
Miss F: "Because it's a stupid tree and I don't like it."
Me: "Did it do something wrong?"
Miss F: "Yes. It is stupid."

At this point I would usually stop giving the conversation much energy or attention. "Stupid" is not an acceptable word in our family, although it is one that Miss F has been using (I thought for the shock value) a lot lately. This time though, something urged me to try and dig a little deeper...

Me: "I heard you say stupid already. I know that you have better words than that, though. Can you tell me something else about the tree?"
Miss F: "NO! I just hate it and I blew it down and now it's sleeping!"
Me: "Oh, it's sleeping? That's a better word. Why is it sleeping?"
Miss F: (major change in body language) "Because it's stupid."
Me: "Don't you like it when the tree is sleeping?"
Miss F: "No."
Me: "Do you feel tired when it is sleeping?"
Miss F: "No!"
Me: "How do you feel then, when the tree is asleep?"
Miss F: "Windy. Because there is too much wind. That's why I blew it down and now it's sleeping."
Me: "Too much wind sounds a bit scary. Is it a happy wind or a sad wind or some other kind of wind?"
Miss F: "No it's sleepy. And when it cries it stings my face. It's sad a sleepy and stings."
Me: "Hmm. Too much sad, sleepy wind. I can see why that would sting. Does the wind only sting your face? Or does it sting some place else as well?"
Miss F: "It stings my face and it goes up my nose and down my neck and stings all the way down my ribs and hurts my tummy until I stand like a ballerina."
Me: "It doesn't sound like a very happy wind at all, Miss F. It must be hard to dance with all that wind stinging under your ribs... (Nodding from Miss F) ...What happens to the wind in your body when the tree wakes up?"
Miss F: "It spins like a twister and then I spin and get dizzy and then I blow over. But I don't really blow over. Just sometimes, if I'm not looking."
Me: "I don't think I would like this wind in my body. Do you like it in your body?"
Miss F: "No."
Me: "No, I don't want it in your body any more. Do you think we can work out a way to get rid of it, together?
Miss F: "Yes. But I already tried holding my nose though."
Me: "That's a good thought. I have another thought... Actually, it's a thought and a question - Can I ask you a question Miss F?"
Miss F: *Nodding*
Me: "I've been sleeping lots lately, haven't I?"
Miss F: *Nodding*
Me: "Does the wind sting your face and nose and tummy when I am sleeping, Miss F?"
Miss F: "Yes.."
At this point Miss F started to cry and I put my arm around her for a cuddle.
Me: "Does it make you dizzy when I wake up, too?"
Miss F: "Yes. Because I don't know how long you're going to be awake and then it bes all windy again. I don't like it when you sleep mum! It's too windy!"
Me: "Oh Miss F. I am very sorry that I've been sleeping so much and I am sorry that all this wind has been stinging you and I didn't see it. I promise that I will not let it hurt you any more. Sleeping was a way to help my body heal, but it is not fair of me to sleep too much and I promise I will find a different way of healing so that doesn't happen any more. I love you bigger than the universe, Miss F."

Then we cuddled for a while until Miss F seemed somewhat settled, and I said, "Thank you for using your words. You spoke very well even though you were upset, and now that I know what was hurting you, I can help you and we can fix it!"

We have had many conversations, both before this one and since, about grief and about me being sad. Whether I like it or not, the girls are going to see me grieve. They are going to have their own grief. There is no getting around it- grief is a significant part of our life experience. It just is.

But I still have choices. We still have choices.

Even though the realisation that my child has been hurting because of something I was doing (even unintentionally) has shaken me to my core - I choose to see this as an opportunity for healing.

After this conversation, Miss F and I went shopping. We bought a mini fan, some party blowers, some bubbles and a garden butterfly who's wings flap in the breeze.
When we got home we decorated the mini fan with pink ribbon, so now Miss F can see the wind, it is pretty - not stingy, and she can point it in which ever direction she chooses. She has control.
The party blowers are for Miss F and her kewl sisters, so if ever the sleepy, sad wind threatens to blow up their noses, they can blow it right back out of their mouths! They are also very loud and perfect for waking sleeping mums - something else Miss F can feel good about having control over.
The bubbles... Well... Who doesn't love bubbles?!! Ballerinas certainly do and if we can use some 'wind' to bring us joy, then this ballerina is all for it.
As for the butterfly - She is now waving to us in the breeze and reminding us that wind can be gentle and calm, as well as energetic and fun!

Miss F is already seeming a whole lot more content. The recent princess moments may still be a four year old phase, or they may have been her four year old way of trying to tell me that something wasn't right. Either way, I choose to be grateful that Miss F has the emotional intelligence to communicate her distress to me. 'A sleepy wind that stings her face, goes up her nose, down to her stomach and stings her ribs until she stands like a ballerina' is a fantastic explanation of her feelings! Way to go, Miss F!

I am still feeling a little shaken after our conversation - after hearing Miss F's distress and realising that things are not as ok as I thought - but I choose to hear my child's 'wake up call' and I choose to use my shaky feelings to shake the sleep out of my eyes and inspire more positive action.

Today is a new day, and I am celebrating a new found respect for princesses.


Debby said...

I'm very proud of you, Al.

Lin said...

I could almost feel the pain you must have been feeling whilst having that conversation. Good work for allowing/prompting her to express those feelings. And love the new 'aids'!

Sammi said...

I want to be like Miss F when I grow up.
The kid is a star just like her mama.
(And her Mary!)

Sammi xoxo

PinkLady said...

Hi Alison... I went through your blog and realized that we are on the same boat, so to speak. We will be commemorating James' 4th year of disappearance this coming January 25. There are a lot of things I want to share with you here as well as questions perhaps. I hope you are doing ok as far as your journey towards healing is concerned.
By the way, thank you for visiting my site. I will be visiting yours often from now on to see how you're doing. Nice blog you have here.

God bless!


Pencil Writer said...

Great Mom/daughter moments. How intuitive and gentle you are in helping your children and you understand their distress and how to identify the reasons. Wish I'd been that good as a Mom, myself!

Mama Zen said...

Oh, wow. I can't even begin to describe my respect for YOU!

Alison said...

Deb - You're such a star! Thank you.

Lin - It still hurts sometimes and I do have to keep reminding myself that it's an opportunity for healing! The aids are pretty kewl though, even if it is far to cold for a fan!

Sammi - You're a clown, woman! Now quit using me to send messages to your girlfriend - I told you there will be no kissing of the messenger!

Pinklady - We are on similar journeys. I love the focus on healing over at your blog. Am going to respond to you more via email :-)

PW - What a darling compliment, thank you! I still feel quite sick thinking about Miss F's distress. I really appreciate your beautiful feedback!

Mama Zen - Ooohhhh, I am used to people being amused by me. Respect is a very pleasant change! I don't have to wear a princess dress though, do I?
Ok, seriously - Thank you :-)

tiff said...

Hugs Al,

Respect is an understatement. I don't think I was able or willing to be present fully for about six months afterwards.

M+B said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again... Al, YOU are amazing :-)

I don't come anywhere close to you in the awesome, brilliant, mother-stakes but I love learning from you!

shygirl said...

wow, what a wonderful way to turn things positive. I had what my mom calls a 'nervous breakdown' a few years ago, and my kids got used to me sleeping all the time. I still am not very present, even though I'm awake more. It bothers me a lot. I worry about what they will take away from this prolonged experience. But I try every day to promote their confidence in their abilities to survive life. They are doing very well, and rely on each other a lot. Even though your kids are very young, you can promote their ability to care for and help each other. My singleton cousin says that was the worst thing about surviving family tradgies - she was alone. My kids take care of each other, and feel safer and more competent for it. I have taken a lot of inspiration from your blog, and I wish you continued strength and humor.

Alison said...

Tiff - If I didn't have the girls, I can't say I would be present in any form under my own steam. Even now, I have my moments. But how could I not wake up and take notice of my child when she's hurting.

M+B - You big dag! You are SO brilliant!!! In so very many ways, not the least of which is how you brought your darling Boo into the world. She was loved before she even existed - now THAT is kewl!

Shy Girl - Wow! Thanks so much for commenting! I can so relate to the worry that what you're doing will have a negative impact on your children. Every day is a new day though, and we can always be proactive in raising joyful children.

Bush Babe said...

Amazing conversation... I must try and remember (and record) more of my own with Dash and Violet. I think you handled this well. Better than I might have (although until you are in the situation, it's hard to know what "might have" would be!).

Hugs to you all - specially those kewl girls!!