This last week I've been contemplating feelings, as I often do. Daily, I walk along the river, noticing...the morning dew on ditch flowers, my foggy brain on new epilepsy meds, my child's own big feelings still ringing in my ears from the night before, and mist floating just above the water. I wonder:
"Why launch a campaign to support children to feel their feelings?"
"Why is this important, to me, now, and why should this be important to others?"
You see, some days, feelings in our house takes over. I have not figured it all out, I'm pretty sure I never will. I am flawed as a parent, my children are not the beacon of best behaviour, AND all of our feelings creep in at the most inopportune times. Some [*most] of the time, I react instead of respond. If I'm being honest, I'm not always proud of how I hold space, (or rather can't hold space) for everyone's feelings around here. You know, sometimes dinner needs to be cooked, and sometimes I'd rather get lost in a recipe than deal with a meltdown. I share this 'cause context and realness can be important when talking about such things.
This morning a came across a picture of my son, now 11 years old, from ten years ago. In it he has a scratched nose, I think his nose might also be running, and there's definitely drool on his lips and chin. In this picture he's smiling the biggest smile, and his eyes are twinkling. It melted my heart, partially because I always want to see him and remember him this way. But it also struck me and forced me to ask, "Does he still have a twinkle in his eyes?"
Four years ago, I had the privilege of being invited to a Study Tour with Inside Out Nature in Viborg, (in the north western part of the Jutland peninsula), in Denmark. While there, we also had the chance to visit forests, programs and schools in Copenhagen, care of our very trusted friend and guide who also just happened to be a former Forest and Nature School parent from Ottawa, ON, now living back in Denmark. To say this trip was life-altering is an understatement, but not for the reasons I expected.
While in Viborg we visited the new municipal building and met with the lead for early childhood education from the municipality. I wasn't looking forward to this part of the study tour, municipal politics not really being my thing, but low and behold I haven't stopped thinking of this visit for four years now.
The leader of the early childhood education department shared with us the pedagogical approach of the municipality. Their aim in supporting young children and their families was to ensure that ALL CHILDREN were able to maintain a twinkle in their eyes throughout childhood. This, for me, was jaw-dropping-show-stopping-amazing. Rather than focus on literacy, school-readiness, or even children's mental health per-say, the focus was instead strength-based, and very simply they gave us all an image of a supported, healthy, happy child that we could aspire to.
So, back to feelings. Let's all admit that we have some work to do, we've been through a lot, children have been through a lot, families have been through a lot. On top of a global pandemic are other compounding factors, (poverty, abuse, systemic racism, health issues, addictions, domestic abuse, etc.) that can dull even the brightest of lights, the brightest of eyes.
I'm committed to walking the walk AND feeling the feelings. If you'd like to join me in this mutual endeavour to help keep the twinkle in our children's eyes, you can buy a poster here and start the conversations in your homes, classrooms, office, heck, even in the bathroom while brushing your children's teeth.