I’ve been mulling this topic around in my head for several weeks. It’s one of those things I want to write about, and every time something comes up about it I think, “I should really blog about that,” but then it gets too personal and I back off. After all, why would I want to put my own intensity and insecurity out there for the world to read?
Then last week, at C’s basketball game, I came to the realization that while he looks like his dad, his personality and emotional intensity are all me.
He didn’t know the play so the coach pulled him out of the game to go over it (handled extremely well by the coach), but C did what any 8 year-old boy would do, he got mad. But then I watched him go from mad, to embarrassed, to hurt, and the tears started to come, and then he was mad at himself for starting to cry, and the emotional rollercoaster took off. I was sitting in the bleachers and he was on the other side of the gym, literally right in front of me. I have to admit I gripped the bench to keep from just going over there and scooping him up because that’s what the mom in me really wanted to do. But instead I tried to catch his eye, hoping to send some telepathic message to brush it off and let it go.
He caught my eye, the tears welled again (in his eyes and mine), he looked away. He watched the game, and then he wiped his eyes. The sullen look on his face told me he was still angry, probably more so at himself than the coach, but it was boiling right below the surface. I sent a few more telepathic thoughts: breathe, let it out, let it go, it doesn’t matter.
And I thought of how often he and I have had these conversations:
- The time in kindergarten when the boys at the ballpark made him cry, and he told me he had a fragile heart.
- The school assembly where he said Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin made him think of all the things I did other than spend time with him.
- The soccer game where he was mad about not getting to play offense and when I told him that he needed to hustle on defense before he’d get to play offense, and he said, “Usually, mom, you’re pretty good at helping me with my problems, but right now you’re just pushing me further down into my despair.”
- His reaction to my going out-of-town for the second time in two months: “Five days! I barely survived without you for three days!”
- Coming out of church after Christmas program practice, fighting back the tears because someone had called him weird.
It all came tumbling through my brain as I willed him to get his emotions under control and go back in the game. He did. It took a few minutes, and from my side of the gym it seemed like an eternity. But he finished the game, sat through the team meeting, and then flopped, emotionally drained, once we got in the car.
I worry about him way more than I worry about S. He has an intensity about him that she doesn’t, and it scares me; scares me because he is me. And I remember how it felt, how it still feels to be overly sensitive. To be joking around one minute and then taking someone’s words to heart the next and feeling the tears brimming your eyes. And those telepathic messages I was sending him? I know that he has no clue how to let it out or let it go, and it DOES matter, at least to him.
The next time he makes a mistake in basketball, he will pull up this incident in his brain, and relive it, and get angry at himself all over again. I know that because that’s how I have always been. My brain doesn’t turn off, and in those quiet moments when I let my guard down, I am still flooded with thoughts about mistakes I’ve made, stupid stuff that no one else remembers. But I remember, and I mentally beat myself up over it again.
But I want C to have a better handle on it long before I did. I was in my late twenties before I learned to accept myself for who I was, and in all honesty, it’s only been a few years that I have truly learned to let go of things I can’t control.
So I read books like Mellow Out They Say, If Only I Could and Living with Intensity, and If This Is a Gift, Can I Send It Back? I talk with C about how he feels, and we talk about what he can control and what he can’t, and I use that talk on myself so that I can be a better role model. And I pray for teachers and coaches and peers who will understand him and let him be himself. And I tell him that a fragile heart is a good thing, and that it’s not so bad being weird. And I let him tag along on my walks and curl up in my lap, and talk, just talk.
And I tell him that he should never be somebody or do something he doesn’t want to do because he thinks it makes other people happy, that it takes courage to be himself.
On an intellectual level, he gets it.
But on an emotional level?
He’s still intense like me.