“It’s a complicated emotion,” I told my kids. “It’s not like anger – anger is loud and bright and easy to understand. Humiliation … well, it’s a mix. A mix of many emotions.”
I don’t even know why the subject came up. Discussions in our house range wildly from one subject to another, interspersed with kid squabbles and mom edicts. Somehow we landed on eating out – and I mentioned a memory. An old memory. They latched on like leaches, determined to drain out the story of my childhood, even though I have very few good stories and they know that.
So I told them the story, ignoring the trickle of anger threading through it as I look at the memory from a parent’s perspective. And because we’re going through an intense period in our family, I tied it in to the Occupational Therapists’ work on emotions with my kids.
It surprises me how much my kids pick up without it being spelled out. It equally surprises me how they can miss something we thought they knew. Like humiliation. They didn’t know the word or how it feels squirming in the pit of your stomach, or clenching in the muscles of your face.
I walked through the emotions I felt in the story, explaining how I felt fear at what other people were thinking about us, anger at those who let their judgement show, and sadness all at the same time. It’s complicated.
It’s complicated that I can dryly explain an emotion that I constantly experience. It’s complicated that I cannot fully explain the truths of my childhood to my kids, despite never shying away from the hard conversations with them. They would not – could not – comprehend. How can they? They’ve grown up knowing they are so loved, that they can’t understand anything different.
I’m feeling vulnerable tonight. Emotionally drained. Even though I’m not the one having the meltdowns, I still feel like someone whacked me upside the head with a 2×4. I know my youngest feels worse, although he tends to shake it off like water sliding down a robin’s back in the rain.
I blame the pandemic. The constant stress hanging over our heads, of wondering if today will be the day one of us gets sick. Of our cloistered life, revolving around routine and constrained by our yard. Anyone would be struggling. Everyone IS struggling!
But not like my son. Physical aggression is tough for me to deal with physically, but emotionally it rips me apart when my six-year-old uses everything he has to try and hurt me.
We’re doing what we can – the limited options dictated by a pandemic. We’re handling it. But still, it’s humiliating. What kind of parent am I if I cannot help my son more, after all these years of experience? Do his therapists think I’m not doing enough? Most parents don’t deal with this, so what have we missed? Why can’t we fix this?
Humiliation. I know that word. It goes bone deep. It always has, even before I was his age.
I still hate it.