Zosia: Mom, when you lean over the tub like that, your butt looks soo……..biiiiiig………and you know I mean… faaaa………
This moment could have gone a million different ways. If it was any other day I might be telling you a very different story; maybe one of anger, one of hilarity, or maybe one of sadness and hurt. But on this particular day, in this particular moment, I was fully conscious to an opportunity.
This is a love story.
Me: Do you want to say it sweetheart? I know we’ve talked about this before, and I’ve told you that “fat” isn’t a nice word and that we don’t say it, but it sounds like you want to try it out. It’s okay, I’m giving you full permission. Go ahead. Tell me my butt looks fat.
Zosia: (gasps) I can’t…..ohhh…..maybe……it’s just your butt looks sooo……..
Me: It’s okay sweetheart. Go ahead, try it out.
Zosia: (tentatively, sneaking up to it) Okay……..mom……when you were leaning over……your butt looks sooo…..ffffff……….fat.
Pause. A moment for it to land.
She starts to cry and I pull her into my arms.
Zosia: Mom!......(sobbing)……….I just…(gasp)…feel so bad!!!
Me: Oh sweetheart (hugging her so tight it feels like my heart is consuming her), I know. It’s okay. You didn’t hurt my feelings. I’m okay. I’ve got you…..be sad as long as you need and tell me when you’re ready.
It goes on like this for moments – Zosia sobbing, me holding her. Gently whispering in her ear how brave she is, and to tell me when she’s ready.
Zosia: Okay……(deep breath, wipes her tears)……I’m ready.
Me: Okay. Wow…..that was a big one heh? How are you?
Zosia: I’m okay.
Me: So….. that feeling is called Shame. I’ve felt it before too – I know how much it hurts. You are so brave for feeling that! But even though it hurts, Shame is a wonderful emotion! That feeling you had was your body telling you that you did something that you shouldn’t have. If you feel that again then you know what it is, and all you need to do is do your best to fix it. So in this case you could come to me and say, “Mommy, I’m so sorry. I made a mistake. That wasn’t a very nice thing to say.” And then I would say, “That’s okay Zosia, you just made a mistake. I love you.” And then we would hug, just like this….. and then the feeling will move.
Zosia: Okay…..(smiles, sniffles, wipes her eyes) Momma, why are you crying?
Me: Sometimes people cry when they’re happy, and I’m just so happy right now. I love you so much. And I want you to know if you ever want to try something out like that again, you can come to me any time. You have full permission to experiment on me whenever you need to.
Zosia: Really? Like, could I try turning you into a frog?
Me: Well, I kind of meant experimenting with thoughts and feelings, but yeah sure.
Zosia: Okay! Lily! Come help me make this potion to turn Momma into a frog!!!!!
Love wins. Every time.