“I sad, miss Mama,” Emilio said to me on a Friday morning, after Adrienne had been away since Tuesday. I’ve been impressed with Adrienne and Matt’s natural parenting instincts since Emilio was first born, and they’ve enhanced those skills through reading and paying attention to what other parents have to say. One thing they do is help Emilio recognize his feelings behind difficult behavior, like saying to him, “I know it’s frustrating to you when I say no more videos,” when he fusses as they put away the iPad.
So I felt proud of both Emilio and his parents that Friday morning when he was able to tell me what he was feeling. Helping a toddler recognize his feelings, and express them, is important regardless of the child’s gender, but it’s particularly encouraging with a boy, given how few cultural messages there are for boys to express feelings.
All of which reminded me of a talk I tried to have about feelings with Sam and two of his friends, more than a decade ago, when they all were about 12. It was late on a Sunday afternoon in the cottage we were renting for a week on Squam Lake. All our visitors for the weekend had left and I realized I now had a week ahead with a lot of male energy in a small space — Eric, Sam and his two friends Ben and Mike. The boys and I were sitting in the living room of the cottage.
“Okay, Guys,” I said. ”Since I’m going to be the only female here all week, let’s practice talking about our feelings.” The boys looked at me. ”What are you feeling right now?”
After a pause Mike said, “I feel hungry.”
Ben looked puzzled for a moment and then smiled. ”I feel sand between my toes.”
We all had a lot of fun that week.