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Column: Learning from our youth

Tanya Ryan's monthly column #LightSideUp
Tanya Ryan 2
Tanya Ryan, Light Side Up

What would it look like if we welcomed all aspects of our human experience?

It’s an inquiry I’ve been puzzling over this year. Somewhere along the lines, I decided that there were only a certain spectrum of emotions and feelings that were acceptable for me to express. Most of them would be considered non-threatening, or socially acceptable: joy, excitement, contentment, contemplative, even sadness was okay sometimes. But frustration? Anger? Hard no. Rage - absolutely not.

This has created a funny space for me to navigate through adulthood - and particularly in parenthood as I begin to ask myself more questions about this. My tiny human gets angry (like really, really angry), whether I like it or not. And so he should. It’s a part of being human, so it’s okay - it’s natural. It would actually be really weird if he didn’t get mad sometimes.

When his tantrums first began, I found myself very reactive to his anger. I would feel triggered, overwhelmed, or even find myself getting angry as well. It wasn’t very constructive, and didn’t help either of us.

This pattern created an opportunity for me to reflect.

I realized that his tantrums and emotions have nothing to do with me. It’s not a reflection of my shortcomings, it’s not my fault or responsibility (usually). So my reaction to his big feelings represented an insecurity and unhealed history of my own.

Understanding this has allowed me to hold space for his emotions.

And as I continue to explore this, I hope it will help me to facilitate him to create healthy expressions of emotions as he grows and develops. I’ll have my eyes and ears open for various tools, teachings, and methods that bolster constructive expressions of that anger and the myriad of toddler emotions so I can better support him in welcoming his feelings (turns out TikTok isn’t all trendy dances and thirst traps-highly recommend).

It’s been really cool overall - because I find that these tools can be repurposed for everyday use.

In my opinion, adults are just children with wrinkles.

We all have our own meltdowns, tantrums, bursts of anger (road rage is basically just a 3 year old with a driver’s licence). So I’ve been able to free myself from getting butt hurt by even big humans’ emotional outbursts. It’s a practice for sure. But it’s helping my quality of life.

Learning to have patience and compassion for my son - is also helping me to have patience and compassion for myself when I have my own meltdowns. I can apologize when it impacts someone around me, and then forgive myself for the act of humaning and move on.

It’s ongoing - but the little progress I’ve experienced in myself is really liberating. So I’m going to keep exploring this theory.

Long story short - I think the answer to a joyful life is to be a little kid. Get mad, say sorry, then live your life. Any more drama than that is just cutting into playtime.