Yesterday I found myself holding my son on the bathroom floor. A pile of tears and a heap of anger, my arms engulfed his little, heaving body.
Though the details are juicy, they are also deeply personal. And though he can only recognize about 30 sight words, I want to respect my son’s deeply-personal moment on the chilled, tiled floor of the smallest room in our house.
With tear-stained cheeks and bulging eyes, he shared his frustration and lamented his sadness. Overwhelmed with a mixed bag of anger, sadness, frustration, and fear…but mostly anger…he spewed and spewed. From the bottom of his soul to the tip of his lips, the emotions poured. My boy was red-hot angry and dealing with a fair amount of shame.
It was ugly.
In fact, even the therapist in me was a tad bit overwhelmed.
Mama didn’t have no treatment plan; Mama didn’t have no case conceptualization; and Mama didn’t have no steps.
Mama was just sittin’ by the tub with a mess of struggle in her arms.
So what do you do with a 5 year-old boy, almost six, who is a hot-mess of angry tears and sad sobs? What do you do with a struggling soul who is vehemently venting with no logic in sight and no solution on the horizon? What do you do when the feeling radar is off-the-charts and the emotions are off-the-hook? What do you do when you’re struggling with someone who is struggling?
What do you do?
Well, I’ll tell you what I didn’t do and then I’ll tell you what I did do.
- I didn’t try to minimize his feelings.
- I didn’t try to change his feelings.
- I didn’t try to solve his feelings.
- I didn’t try to shove or ignore his feelings.
- I didn’t try to distract him from his feelings.
- I didn’t try to explain his feelings.
- I didn’t try to sugar-coat his feelings.
- I didn’t try to rationalize his feelings.
I didn’t do any of those things.
But here’s what I did do.
- I let him feel his feelings.
- I let him sit with his feelings.
- I let him talk through his feelings.
- I let him figure out what he wanted to do with his feelings.
- I held him.
- I listened to him.
- I cried with him.
- I empathized with him.
- I gave him space to share and a place to vent.
- I didn’t judge him (or his feelings).
I was just there.
Present, not fixing. Available, not judging. Near, not solving.
I was with him.
In the middle of his “hard,” I sat too.
I didn’t really “do” anything; I just “was.” And the “was” was what he needed the very, very most in the middle of that moment.
And I can’t help but think that there are a lot of other people in our circles and in our communities who need the very same thing.
They don’t need our answers and our solutions. They don’t need our fixing and our fretting. They don’t need our perfectly-timed words and our well-articulated thoughts. They don’t need our sugar-coating or our shoving.
Sometimes people just need “with moments” and “was moments”–spaces and places where someone will simply hold their hearts and hear their feelings in the middle of life’s “bathroom floor moments.”
As he gathered his crumpled self off that bathroom floor, wiping his tears and sniffing his snot, I hugged him one last time and said a few sentences that I hope he never forgets–sentences I want to have ready for the many moments in life where he just needs a “with” and a “was” moment.
“Buddy, I want you to know that if Mama was able to sit in the middle of your messy emotions…holding you, hugging you, and loving you through them… how much MORE SO can our Heavenly Father sit with our hard moments and love us still?”
With puffy eyes and blotchy skin, he smiled quickly and left the bathroom. And as he left, I couldn’t help but smile and thank God for being a God who can sit on the bathroom floor and weep “with” us…giving us the grace and space for “was moments.”