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Mad and Sad, Sad and Mad

This reminds me of the chicken and egg question. Until now, I have never thought about the connection between these two emotions, or at least not much. Yes, I’ve been there, I said it: Yes, I was definitely angry, but, you know, all that’s left now is sadness. Now when I think about it, it has probably happened more often than I’d like to think. I probably just chose not to see the anger because sadness is just so much more noble emotion.

But now I have a two-and-a-half-year-old boy. He is two, and he is pretty intense, always has been. Sensitive too. And all I’d like to do is simply help him navigate through the labyrinth of his, at this point, pretty raw emotions. I try to label them for him. I try to point them out. I try to help him understand it’s OK to have them.

But at the end of many of these journeys I take with him, I am amazed at how it works. I suppose it’s so much easier to notice these connections when it’s not your own emotions that you are focused on.

My husband is about to step out the door to go to work. Andrei is suddenly mad. A year ago, he would have just sadly clung to Michael. Now, Andrei is obviously mad at Michael for getting ready to leave. He pushes Michael away. He comes back to my arms. He refuses to give Michael a hug or kiss. Michael steps out the door, and Andrei  whispers sadly, I want my daddy. It breaks my heart that both of us can’t be around Andrei  24/7 now when he wants us to, but I remind myself we are preparing this little boy to live a life on this planet Earth, and that means he needs to learn how to handle all sorts of emotions.

Or, in an effort to tidy up, I put into a bag the playdough Andrei was  earlier playing with (forgetting he made a “cake”), and I squash it a bit in the process. Andrei gets really mad. He throws the playdough on the ground, saying, I made that! I already know I hurt his feelings by disrespectfully treating his “cake” so I say I am sorry, so sorry (and reiterate that he is not allowed to throw things anyway), and a second later he runs into my arms, all crushed. I apologize one more time, and comfort him, and acknowledge the fact it’s so much easier to deal with sadness than with anger.

I acknowledge the connection between these two emotions that I have just noticed more clearly than ever before. Mad seems to come before sad. I am glad my son’s “cycle” is short, he gets to the bottom fast, and he recovers fast. Because he possesses this openness that allows emotions to easily go through him, far from repression, denial, subconscious, all those complicated things we adults know too well. In my son’s world of a two-year-old, it’s all so simple and so obvious: he is mad and he is sad and he is back to his regular happy self.  It’s all so amazing. And so obvious.

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