Monday, July 27, 2009

Resign Yourself: You're Through

I've been musing about emotions lately, or rather, how when we are four years old, we're too young to appreciate how simple they are. You get mad--you yell a lot and stomp your feet. You get happy--you laugh and smile and clap your hands. You get sad--you cry, and then sometimes you get the fruit leather after all. Piece of cake. (Mmmm, cake. Simple, see?)

I got to thinking about the more complicated feelings because Mary was nice enough to watch Jarrah today while I taught my dance class at the preschool. Turns out Jarrah has an ear infection, but she's been on antibiotics for 24 hours, so Mary was brave. Big hugs, Mary! (See? We've got some emotions going on right there.) When I met them at the mall for the hand-off, Mary whispered that Joy got jealous today, and told her mommy she wanted her all to herself. They worked it out, but I wondered aloud if Jarrah even knows what jealousy is yet. I've never seen her express anything of that kind, unless it was over fruit leather, and that doesn't really apply, in my book.

As I was driving home, I glanced back at her in the rear view mirror a few times, wondering if she would fall asleep. She's been pretty wiped out the past week; now we know why. Mostly, I saw her apply and reapply the Cotton Candy Lip Smacker that generous Mary bought her at Target. I wondered if there was a care in her head.

I started thinking about my class today, and how the theme was Feelings. Dancing our feelings, to be more specific. I started out by demonstrating some movements that I asked them to interpret for me with the question "How am I feeling?" They all screamed "sad!" when I was looking for "shy," and "mad!" when I was looking for "frustrated." The most basic of whatever. When I tried to do "embarrassed," I looked back at five shining faces with no comprehension whatsoever. I understand that, at their age, they may have experienced some mild embarrassment already, but I don't think they know what it might look like, since they weren't looking at themselves at the time. Either that or I do terrible impressions.

Later, looking at Jarrah, I wondered how much she gets embarrassed. How often she feels sad in the adult way, a low-belly ache with a shivery sensation up the spine that comes and goes in waves for days or weeks or months. The heavy feet and heavier heart. I'll bet she hasn't had to do that yet. I fervently hope not. Or felt so jealous she could spit. Flew into a rage that made her want to say something really, really stupid (when she's mad at us, the furthest she ventures is "You're not my best friend!") And forget lust, gluttony, sloth, your basic evils. I'm not sure I could even explain those. I guess that's the point. No one ever explains them. You get older and you start having more feelings, and they're messy and horrible or horribly wonderful because they're a tasteful (or nauseating) melange of several feelings at once, and then you are standing there--reeling--thinking "What the hell is happening to me?" All that hideous reflection and analysis. Jarrah doesn't analyze stuff. She quickly, incisively, assesses whether the situation is an opportunity to either receive or be deprived of fruit leather, and reacts accordingly. Sad, mad and happy pretty much cover it.

And damn, if that doesn't bring up all kinds of messy feelings in me. Awe. Delight. Protectiveness. Tenderness. Fear (for when the time comes--and it will come--that things aren't so simple.) And jealousy. Yes, jealousy, because there was no doubt a time when emotions were just as simple for me, and I don't have the pleasure of remembering it.

8 comments:

Myrnie said...

Isn't it great, that each day we can handle a little more... and each day we're handed something new to handle?? I hope it's a good long while before Jarrah needs to worry about anything more serious than who got the biggest chunk of fruit leather :)

katydidnot said...

god in heaven. you are brilliant. this is the best thing i've maybe ever read about feelings.

Aunt LoLo said...

You're absolutely right! I mean, I think BBJ KNOWS what jealousy is, as she suddenly had half of her attention and toys taken away from her by a squirming, fat, pink THING. But...does she know what it looks like? No! Only RECENTLY, has she gained to the ability about it being too "hot." Before our DC trip, she would simply sit in the back seat, sweat, moan and scream. We had to GUESS why our little angel was suddenly exhibiting all the classic signs of labor.

erin said...

I've always felt like my oldest daughter, Rose, is a little walking talking empathy machine. She is always saying things, "I think Grandma's mad." "Maybe the baby is just sad." "Jeremiah's going to be upset if his book doesn't come."

She'll cry if someone gets hurt, gets anxious while I'm anxious and tries to comfort when she should be the one comforted.

The other kids could care less.

Stephanie said...

Ahhh, but in their simplicity is great, great wisdom IMHO. I believe they have complex emotions and agree, the best way they can deal is to stomp, cry and be a little bratty--then they are done. If only I could be done so quickly and move back to my happy place so completely and authentically. If only I did not stew in all of my real and false perceptions and let those perceptions rule my day, my life, my reality. If only the most hurtful words I could muster were "you're not my best friend".

For me therein lies one of the most beautiful pieces of motherhood--that symbiotic, and on the best of days, the graceful dance, learning and growing from each other in the most real of relationships.

Sam said...

Steph, that brings tears to my eyes! Beautiful! :)

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

I remember when Laura was little-little, and I was feeling all angst-y just knowing that someday she would feel angst.

You're not my best friend! Awesome. My favorite Laura line was, "You're the worse parents I've ever heard of!"

Fasten your seat belt. I can't wait to celebrate the ride with you and Jarrah.

Joan said...

I don't think 4-5 yearolds would experience embarrassment -- it only comes when you are aware that you have committed a social faux pas.
So it will be interesting to note when you first see Jarrah embarrassed.
Which reminds me: I was once told that there is no word for embarrassment in Spanish; that is, you cannot embarrass a Spaniard, only shame him/her. I wonder if this is true?