Love is a Superpower, I Don't Care What Anyone Else Says...It Is.
When my youngest was 4, we bought him a shirt that stated, Love is my Superpower. Of all my children, he by far is the most in tune with his emotions. He’s always been able to tell us exactly what emotion he is feeling and for the most part, what he needs. And then he went to school.
In all of his six years in school since that day, he only wore the shirt once. Once was enough. I’ll never forget the day we picked him up after school the day he wore that shirt. Usually, a kid who ran to us to scoop him up in our arms, but this day he slowly walked toward us, head down. In the car, he was unusually quiet and when I asked him how his day was, he yelled, “why did you make me wear this stupid shirt?” And gone was my emotionally confident kid. When I asked him what happened, he said that two of the boys who were usually his friend, made fun of him all day and refused to play with him. They said his shirt was stupid and boys can’t wear things like that. It was his first taste of how cruel kids can be, as well as how boys learn not to show their emotions or love.
Fast forward six years and he is in 5th grade. This year, he is reading the book, Wonder. There’s so much good in this book about kindness, authenticity, and empathy. After reading the book, it’s tradition for kids to watch the movie in class. Upon learning this from my older two children, he quickly asked if he could stay home the day they watched it in class. When I asked why he said he didn’t want everyone to see “my emotions. I know I will cry and probably be the only one in class. I don’t want to be made fun of like I did when I wore the love shirt.” Ouch. There it was. That shirt with the message that is still so true today for him, was also what set him apart from others in a negative way (in his mind). My heart broke a little again for him. Tears in our family are nothing to be ashamed of. Our bodies need to cry, whether angry, sad, tired, embarrassed, or happy, tears are a part of life and our experiences. I never want anyone not to cry around me. It takes courage to cry, but also try telling that to a 10-year-old who wants others to like him. We talked about why he wanted to stay home and problem-solved ways to deal with the tears if they came. Needless to say, we will see what happens when they watch the movie.
So why am I writing about my littlest guy today (other than I love writing about my kids whom I adore)? Emotions. Life lately has been full of them. I have been full of emotions. And even with all of my training, I struggle sometimes to express them. Much of the work I do with clients around authenticity and being themselves has to do with their emotions- the ones they accept, the ones they block, and the ones that need to be expressed but they are afraid of. Recently I was turned onto the acronym RULER and I absolutely love it! It comes out of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence under the guidance of Marc Brackett and is brilliant. It is intended to help children with their social-emotional learning, but it truly applies to us all. Ruler stands for recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating. These steps are what we need to do to become more emotionally intelligent.
Each of these steps can be a full-on course and discussions for another day. I just wanted to put it out into the world that emotions are not bad, none of them. I wholeheartedly believe that it takes courage to feel and that we need to encourage all of us to be a little more in touch with our emotions. Love is our Superpower, we just need to be brave enough to show it.