My name is Emily Kriegel and I am a mother of both a three-year-old girl and a one-year-old boy. I’m using my free time to pursue my passions – running and writing.
My journey through motherhood has been revelatory and humbling for me, and I have been using my gift of writing to help both parents and non-parents better understand their own clumsy journey through life.
Becoming a mother has been an obviously transformative experience for me.
I’m tired, my body looks different, and I’ve learned my threshold for stress is much higher than I ever thought it could be. However, I’ve also experienced an unexpected transformation: my kids are teaching me how I should be living my life.
Every day, I try to teach my children little tidbits that will help them be functioning members of society; however, I find on many days they teach me more than I teach them.
When my daughter hears a song she loves, she dances. At home, in the bathtub, in the car, at the store, it doesn’t matter; she dances. When she eats a donut she loves, she savors it – and dances then, too - while she audibly expresses her joy in the taste of that donut.
On the way to school, she tells me how beautiful the sunrise is. I’m fully aware that we have limitations as adults. For example, it might not be appropriate for you to moan in delight when you have a delicious tiramisu at a company dinner.
However, she teaches me to enjoy what brings me joy.
Hear a song you like? Dance - and if you’re not at an appropriate place to dance, stop and listen. Eating your favorite dessert? Savor it. Enjoy it. See a beautiful sunset? Stop. Look at it. Tell your spouse or best friend to look with you. Let life bring you uninhibited joy.
On the other side of the spectrum, I also watch my daughter practice vulnerability several times each day. If something hurts, she cries. If something makes her happy, she squeals in delight. If she sees exasperation on my face, she asks me if I’m okay. We live in an emotionless vacuum of a society which values stoicism and neutrality over expression of emotion. We’re encouraged to “hold it in” until we’re alone. This contrived apathy is contributing to much of our collective, but often hidden, pain.
You hurt. I hurt. We hurt. Let’s show it.
It’s scary to tell or show someone you’re hurting. It can be even scarier to truly ask someone else if they’re hurting, too. We don’t know how the people around us will react. However, expressing emotions make them real, and it’s much easier to fight a villain you can see with a tribe of supporters behind you. It’s also contagious.
The more we model vulnerability, the more our peers, coworkers, spouses, and friends will express their own vulnerability. My daughter is one of the happiest people I know, and I think it’s because the world hasn’t yet forced her to internalize her emotions.
This final practice of my daughter is imperative if you want to be able to dance and be vulnerable. Some of you have already read the heading and scoffed because that’s not an option for you – at least you don’t think it’s an option.
Today, I walked my daughter into preschool and we were running a little late, but she still stopped to pick up 2 acorns, a leaf, and a ball of snow. I understand she’s at an advantage: she doesn’t really have a perception of time nor does she have any extreme ramifications for her tardiness. I found myself urging her to “move along” until I remembered what her little brain was doing.
She was curious. She was excited at what she was finding. She was appreciating the world around her. When I say, “slow down,” I am not saying, “It doesn’t matter if you’re late.” Slowing down doesn’t have to have anything to do with speed. Of course, if you’re not pressed for time, you should physically slow down and enjoy the world around you. But if you are pressed for time, slow your brain down.
You’ll get where you’re going when you get there, and the stress and worry regarding your arrival to a location or the completion of a project won’t do anything but ruin your journey on the way and cause you to miss all the acorns and leaves around you. Slow down your brain.
When you slow down your brain, you’ll have more time to dance and more energy to be vulnerable.
It’s a hard world out there, friends. But I think if we take a lesson from the children around us, we will remember who we are at our core.
We are vulnerable, excited, and passionate beings who have been given a world of beauty to savor and enjoy.
Keep fighting the good fight!
If you like what you see, feel free to check out some of my other pieces at https://www.mentallyhealthymom.com/