I was putting sweet Tobes to bed last night and as I was leaving he said:
“It’s scary in here. I am going to be scared tonight.”
After he shared this with me, I responded with:
“You don’t need to be scared my sweet, there is nothing to be afraid of.”
Then he said: “Yes there is.”
This isn’t the first time he has shared his feelings with me about being scared and not the first time we have had conversations about what it is he is scared of.
And last night, after his sweet voice uttered these words, my intention was to help him see that everything is okay, he is safe and he doesn’t need to be scared because there is nothing scary.
I wanted to help him.
What all of us moms want.
But I wondered if I was actually helping him by responding this way.
Maybe he is scared in the night.
Maybe he will be tonight.
And maybe that’s ok.
So I paused, took a moment and then...
“You’re going to be scared in the night? It’s okay to be scared honey. I have been scared before too.”
And then I paused again.
I didn’t fill up the silence trying to make him not scared.
It wasn’t easy. But I did it.
And then he said “Can you turn my nightlight blue, mom?”
“Sure can my sweet.”
Then we talked about what we would do in the morning, blew each other kisses and exchanged our favourite saying - “love you my best friend forever”.
And out the door I went.
In that moment with my beautiful son, I noticed that although my intention was to help him, as it always is, by me telling him there is nothing to be scared of, what I might actually be doing is teaching him that being scared isn’t okay.
That we don’t want to be scared. That scared doesn’t belong here.
Which is so similar to when we have been told:
“Don’t be sad.”
“There’s nothing to be sad about.”
If I was putting Toby to bed and he said:
“It’s going to be fun in here tonight. I am excited.”
I would never say:
“Oh don’t be excited my sweet, there is nothing to be excited about.”
I would be like: “Sounds like a blast, have a good time!” lol
So although I didn’t want him to feel scared. And I wasn't thrilled that he said these words. I knew by me trying to convince him not to be scared I was teaching him that scared wasn’t okay.
So instead of doing that, I held space for him.
I acknowledged his experience without trying to fix his feelings or dismiss them or tell him not to worry about them.
I let him be in his experience and I stayed in mine.
Because what I really want to teach Toby is not that he doesn’t need to be scared or that there is nothing scary.
What I want to teach him is that all of his emotions are okay.
It’s a part of life.
There is nothing wrong with being scared.
And there is definitely never anything wrong with him when he is feeling scared.
So as his mama (and his best friend forever ;)) I will continue to hold space for him as he grows and learns and experiences all of his emotions.
It’s not always easy to do this because my instinct as his mama is to protect him.
But the biggest gift I believe I can give him, is to teach him that he never ever needs to be protected from his emotions.
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