As I held her hand while a nurse said, “tell me if it hurts”, I could see the pain in my mom’s face. Her response was simply, “it’s okay’. Ever the good patient.
I whispered, “Mom, you don’t have to be the good patient. Tell them what you need”.
I said that as I did my best, by her side, to be the good daughter. Being next to her was the only place I wanted and needed to be. Yet so many times, our needs get tangled in the unconscious lessons we’ve learned over time about who others need us to be and who we need to be to get through.
I wondered how often I have said, “it’s okay” when what I really wanted to say is, “I’m hurting right now”.
Despite my dry and too-often sarcastic front-facing self, I have been a a caregiver and nurturer my whole life. Taking care of emotions, including endearing myself to people who could help take care of mine, is a long-standing trait.
I continue to grapple with disentangling my identity as an “emotional fixer” from my sincere, empathic desire to support others without sacrificing my own feelings.
Later that week, my step-father playfully said to my daughter, “Well then I’m mad!” Rather than running over to try to make him feel better, she simply responded, “that’s okay Papa. You’re allowed to feel your feelings”.
Maybe the kids are alright.
By Dr. Tamara Soles, Child Psychologist and Parent Coach