By Selina Armstrong
I recently learned a valuable lesson about reparenting your inner child and social-emotional learning through an analogy using crayons. I didn’t learn it while scrolling through Facebook or Instagram like I usually do when reading memes and watching videos by gentle parenting content creators. And not by reading one of our GENM articles that always drops some knowledge in my lap. This time I learned it … at church.
The pastor was talking about living between two extremes and how so many things we do in our adult life are directly correlated to our childhood (hello reparenting). He gave this wonderful visual that helped me understand so clearly the ways our childhoods can affect our parenting.
Many of us, as children, were living and feeling in a world that was very black or white … good or bad. If you grew up anything like me, you may have had a very limited emotional intelligence (EQ). You were taught that there were certain emotions that were ok to live in like happy and mad. Anything outside of that was really not acceptable.
Feeling frustrated? … that’s mad.
Feeling disappointed? …that’s mad.
Feeling embarrassed? … just get mad!
Life was like living between two crayons, two extremes … black and white.
But in reality, there is a world full of colorful emotions out there just like all the colors in one of those big boxes of crayons that include colors like “yellow-green” and “neon carrot”. I can still hear the pastor saying, “You better get you some neon carrot in your life.”
In her new book Atlas Of The Heart, sociologist, professor, and researcher Brené Brown examines 87 different emotions and makes the distinction between them. Emotions like jealousy and envy, shame and guilt, hopelessness and despair, humiliation and embarrassment. How many of us really know what those feel like in our bodies? Or do they just show up as angry or sad?
There’s nothing that can help you work on your EQ quite like becoming a parent. I know my kids have brought emotions out of me that I didn’t even know existed. I often find myself asking myself, “What is this that I am feeling?”
Sometimes it feels so foreign and uncomfortable. I have felt happiness and love and pride and joy in ways I have never experienced before becoming a parent. I have also felt anger, frustration, disappointment, and regret in ways I have never experienced before. Kids will bring it all out of you for sure. Just another reminder that our kids can be our biggest teachers if we lean in and allow ourselves to learn from those mirrors that they tend to hold up in front of us.
So I encourage you to go get some “granny smith green” or some “purple mountains majesty” in your life. Or maybe you need some “periwinkle” or some “mauvelous!”
Explore new crayon colors as you explore new emotions. When we continue to live in between black and white we inadvertently take away our kids' opportunity to live and feel in color. These emotions were created for us to be able to express ourselves and in doing so we give our kids permission to do the same.