Big Feelings

Big Feelings

It was a few years into parenthood when I first heard the term “big feelings”. I loved it right away because it captures the way that sometimes little bodies and hearts and minds are filled with emotion, and kids don’t usually have the words or tools to express all that it means. I’ve used this term for years with and for kids. It’s great shorthand for something more complicated—a mixture of a lot of emotions. And, of course, it applies to adults too.

This time of year is full of all kinds of ceremonies, of endings and beginnings, some made even more poignant and powerful by a break from them caused by the pandemic. All the posts on social media, all the events, all the things I’ve experienced lately have reminded me that this time of year is a time of big feelings, for whatever age you are. It is or it can be a lot.

I’ll confess that I am in the midst of a lot of big feelings, in part because my kid is leaving a school where he’s been for six years. The other day I started writing a thank you note to one of the teachers who has known him all this time, started crying, and, after arriving at school for the promotion ceremony, cried and laughed and felt a whole variety of things in the span of the next couple of hours. I was happy/sad to see how much all of these kids have grown; I found myself grieving because of all we lost during the pandemic. There were parents I hadn’t seen in two years, even though in pre-COVID times I saw them every day before or after school. I am super proud of how much and how far these kids have come, and nervous about what is before them. Some of that is, of course, directly woven into parenting, since we raise them to have roots and wings. Some of it is exaggerated this year for me because it will be a huge transition. Sigh.

On the very last day of school, the fifth graders experience a clap out, with all the kids and teachers clapping for them as they exit, and the parents forming a path to clap them out on the playground. There were a lot of smiles, and there were tears, and there were all kinds of other expressions on those kids’ faces. So many big feelings. I wondered about all the things that were going on in their hearts and minds.

Frank Bruni, in his most recent book The Beauty of Dusk, considers all the invisible things that people carry around with them in their bodies and minds and spirits. He talks about a time when he brings this idea up at a table with a number of people older than himself: “I mentioned my sandwich board theory of life, my belief that we’d all be a lot less consumed with our own misfortunes and slights—and a whole lot more understanding of other people’s moods and misdeeds—if each of us just had a glimpse of the burdens that people were shouldering, the fears that they were strangling, the scars that they were concealing. All around the table, there were nods.”

We all have big feelings some days. Whatever you are carrying around with you in your minds and hearts these days, know that you are not alone. You are held closely by love, always.