“I am allowed to HAVE AN OPINION!”
I was downstairs. She was upstairs. I could hear every syllable.
Without seeing her, I knew her fists were clenched and her arms were stiff at her sides. Her jaw was jutting out and hot tears were collecting in the corners of her eyes: her tells. Her body betrayed her, leaking her emotions all over the place.
I try to let my kids work things out on their own–sometimes out of shear
exhaustion, sometimes not. I know the difference between forced crying and real pain. I can hear it and feel it inside my chest. With four children, all of whom have inherited some of my emotional hardware, there are a lot of big feelings in our house all of the time even when they’re supposed to be sleeping. The feelings have feelings have feelings.
This time, though, I scaled the steps because a parenting revelation was happening.
She heard me.
She listened to the heart-to-heart we had months ago in preparation for inventor’s camp, a recap of the conversation we had in the midst of her frustration with “friends” who wanted her to do this and not that and then this but not with that person or her or him.
She HEARD me.
More often than not, I fire words at my brood missing my target entirely. My mouth moves and inside my head I’m saying: Shut up, Em. Enough is enough, now. They’re too little to get what you’re saying. Rephrase. Their eyes are glazed over; you’ve lost them. Abort. Abort.
This time, though, this one time, she was with me. She heard me give her permission to have an opinion, to not be afraid to share her intuition, to go with her gut and let it march out of her mouth.
I found her just like I thought I would, stiff and unyielding, glaring at her brother with a ferocity in her eyes that she hoped would hurt him–quite literally.
The room erupted when they saw me. “He wouldn’t” and “she said” and “he won’t” and “then,” “but,” “so” and “that’s not true,” “yes it is,” “no it isn’t”. Tears.
Most of the time I can feel my insides clamoring to compete with the emotional chaos until I’m ready to erupt.
Not this time.
I took Chloe by the hand. She reluctantly followed. Her body was still stiff and ready to spar. That jaw, my jaw, my father’s jaw–out and angry.
“Chlo.” My voice was almost a whisper.
“Mommy. I’m allowed to have an opinion!” She said one more time before she folded into me.
The weight of voicing her opinion, standing her ground was hard work. Frustrating, tiring, gut-wrenching work.
There were a million things I could have said to her while her head rested on my shoulder. Her ear was so close. She was captive. I had more to tell her. I could have told her that sometimes our opinions are wrong or that it’s important to listen or that it’s not always best to dig your heels in or that everyone has opinions (just look at a comment section on the internet, I think). I could have told her that someone can always challenge her opinion, so make sure it’s a good one. Think it through first. Be assertive, sure, but be flexible and open-minded. Have convictions, Chloe, but allow for others to have convictions, too. And…
There were so. many. things.
We’re at a funny place, Chloe and I. We have been for a little while. I’m figuring her out. She’s doing the same. I know it won’t be the last time I find myself in the middle of a “phase” without any idea how to navigate its waters.
How many phases do I have left where she can still fit in my lap?
Her ear was so close. There were so many things to say.
And I didn’t say any of them. Not one thing.
Saying nothing was enough or better or just right or something. This time anyway. I think.
But that’s just my opinion. I am allowed to have one, after all.