My daughter ‘C’ is quiet like her Mama. That is to say, she is quiet until she has something to say; until she has a safe way – and a safe place – to say it. Until she trusts you. Once those criteria are met, well, she could talk your ear off.
I recently came across the following quote by Lawrence Cohen, PhD, and it brought back a flood of memories: “Children don’t say, “I had a hard day at school today; can I talk to you about it?” They say, “Will you play with me?”
When my daughter was little, she had a cute little stuffed bunny that she loved above all the many other stuffed toys who lived on her bed throughout her childhood and whom she called friends. Bunny was different than all her other beloved stuffed toys and he alone held the coveted position of sleeping every night – pressed to her cheek – on her pillow. He also came with her on any trips we made to visit family at Christmas or on summer holidays.
In her teens, her step-father and I got blow-by-blow accounts of her days, her troubles at school, the issues she was grappling with at her first job, that homework assignment that she was struggling with. ‘C’ processed everything by talking it out with us. The anger, frustration or worry she could not always easily express to others came out like a faucet when she got into the car and expressed a need to ‘vent”.
It had not always been that way, however. When she was little, everything that was bothering her tended to get bottled up inside. The only way anything ever came out was in great, awful, turbulent temper tantrums that were exhausting to witness and must have been exhausting to live through. There was nothing I could do while the temper tantrums were in full swing so I learned to walk away until they had ridden themselves out. Once she had calmed down, only then could I approach her.
On one occasion, after a doozy of a meltdown, I came into ‘C’s room where she was lying on her bed, turned toward the wall. I lay down beside her and I snuggled close as I gently questioned her about what was bothering her.
The silence was impenetrable.
I don’t know what possessed me to give Bunny a voice, but at some point, I picked him up, sat him on my hip and in a childish bunny voice, I asked “What’s wrong, ‘C’?”
She might have been able to ignore her Mama’s questioning but Bunny was a different matter. “I’m sad,” she told him, rolling over to give him her full attention. I could tell at that moment that I had ceased to be in the room at all.
“What about?” he asked, interested and concerned, as his ears – propped up from behind by her Mama’s fingers – came forward expectantly.
This started a ritual we would continue for several years whenever things were bothering my quiet, introspective little girl. She wasn’t always ready to tell her Mama what was bothering her but she solemnly told Bunny every single detail.
My baby girl just turned thirty and we Facetime frequently. Occasionally, she still struggles to find the words for the tougher things that are bothering her. Sometimes, it takes us an hour of talking about nothing and everything before she gets to the point of her call; as whatever dilemma she happens to be facing finally comes tumbling out. She usually doesn’t want or need my input: she tends to figure out her own solutions just by voicing the problem out loud.
As the memory of all those heart-to-hearts with Bunny came flooding back, I wondered whether she would get to the point sooner if I still had Bunny and could just let him take over the conversation.
But, well, Bunny lives with her now.
I’m sure she still tells him all kinds of things I’m not even aware of…
Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com
*source of image: Facebook