I heard him wailing, as he ran down the street toward home. Him, looking for comfort and someone to notice his small-but-big pain; me, rolling my eyes a little with a sigh in my breath. Still, I ready my arms to wrap around his three-year-old body, and, as the door bursts open, all the cries and words come tumbling out together in a mess. “Where does it hurt?” I ask, wiping away a tear mixed with dirt on his cheek. He holds out his finger, pointing to the very tip with his other hand. I nod and kiss, knowing to let my lips hit precisely where he gestured. Instantly, like some unknown magic has worked through his body, he straightens up and bounds off to play again. All is well again; he has been seen, heard, and healed.
Seen. Heard. Healed.
Something about those three words, softly spoken by some inner whisper, causes an unexpected pinch inside my chest as I realize just how often I desire to have those needs met.
So much of my adult life has been spent looking for those things. But I wonder here a moment, what if at a young age we were seen, heard, and allowed to feel? Then that last bit, the part about healing, wouldn’t even be necessary. Isn’t this what I give to my children? Isn’t this the part I have to work so hard at? To learn to be patient with all of those big feelings of theirs. To safety my own triggers so as not to hurt the next generation the way I was hurt. A gift that wasn’t always given to me as I waded through the years, shutting everything up tight because maybe it was just too much to feel. What if it all spilled out, after all, and I would also be seen as too much to love?
Another pang from somewhere, another phrase I am learning to rewrite. I felt “too much” from a young age. Took up too much space, laughed too loudly, felt too strongly. Somewhere along the way, I learned to shrink. To stuff every little bit of myself somewhere. Until once in a while, someone or somewhere made me feel safe enough to creep out and allow a sliver of my being actually to be seen.
When that version of myself–my whole self–appeared, I would wish to be her always, but it is a vulnerable thing to be seen and heard for who you are, to decidedly and freely take up the space you inhabit. Especially when the version of womanhood you are presented with seems to demand that you are quiet and small and submissive.
But then. A shift. Years later as I grew and birthed three sweet babes, one after another, I learned something I might not have learned without the breaking and remaking of motherhood.
I look at my children, each so obviously their own individual self, and all I want is for them to be as free and wonderfully themselves as they can be.
Slowly, I also began to learn that it is not too late for me, either, to embrace my wholeness and let the stuffed-down parts out again, to feel fully on this hard and brilliant path to healing.
I wonder…perhaps I can’t protect my children from everything in this world, but what if I can give them room to feel and to be seen and heard in whatever they are feeling right now? To let them know they are never “too much” and always perfectly whole, that they are allowed to take up space and do so unapologetically. Then just maybe, later on, they wouldn’t have the need to be convinced of their intrinsic worth, to look so desperately for this healing. They would already know they are whole.
Bec Ellis is a writer and poet located in Central Oregon with her husband and three kids. She shares original poetry and short prose on her Instagram @bec_ellis_writer. Bec’s writing focuses on themes of motherhood, embodiment, and acceptance. You can learn more about her at www.bec-ellis.com and listen to her meditations and reflections on InsightTimer.