Right Under our Noses

October 22, 2010 at 8:55 am 6 comments

I don’t talk a lot about Feeleez, our line of empathy tools. It’s funny because almost daily I print out labels and Nathan scoots off to shoot Feeleez packages off to excited customers. Kris and I talk business talk at the park while our children shovel sand, and we have big hopes and dreams for this little seed we are watering. In fact this very blog was started as a place to discuss Feeleez news and triumphs, yet I almost never mention them at all. In fact, even though Feeleez forms the fabric of our lives I even forget to use them as tools in my own parenting. Maybe it’s the case of the bookkeeper’s own checkbook remaining unbalanced, the therapists own relationships continuing disastrously, or the housekeepers own house staying perpetually messy, I’m not sure. But in any case I used Feeleez last night for conflict resolution and felt like a doofus for passing our poster by so many times, for not using it for all it’s worth, for not employing it ten thousand times a day.

Nathan is a thespian, so he has been away during the evenings this week rehearsing for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I have been holding down the fort. So you can imagine the scene at seven-fifteen last night. Three tired girls, dirty from a day at the corn maze, and frayed at the edges from non-stop sister dynamics. A sink piled high with dishes. A mama working feverishly against the clock so that when things went downhill she could usher them toward tooth-brushing and story reading and later when she emerged from the sleep-filled bedroom she wouldn’t still face that ugly mountain of pots and pans. In other words, the perfect scenario for a scrap and the perfect scenario for Mama to yell and fail miserably at gentle parenting.

And so it went. In their last-ditch efforts to squeeze every last drop of fun from the day Bella and Xi flitted about from one game to the next, finally settling on drawing. But when Xi slid a piece of paper out of the pile she hit Bella in the arm. Bella was pissed, yelled. Xi yelled back, explaining it was an accident. Bella, not believing her, struck back. Xi cried and stomped away. I watched it all go down and continued to wash dishes. Eventually I explained to Bella what I saw, but it was biased and preachy and my speech certainly didn’t inspire her to run to the bedroom and drape empathy over Xi’s shoulders. I washed more dishes. Then I dipped into the dark bedroom and ladled out empathy myself. Xi felt better but she could hear play continuing in the living room. She wanted to join back in, she wanted to have fun but she didn’t want to act as though nothing had happened either. She was trapped.

I stayed on the dark bed with her for a while, reminding myself that mothers don’t have to know what to do. I could simply hold her and sit in the dark, there are no rules that say mom has to make everything better, and in any case I didn’t know how to do that anyway. Finally I thought of the poster. Glory be! Xi was game so I invited Bella to join us there. They stood awkwardly, like newlyweds in a tiff, and I acted as host. Who wants to start? Will you tell us how you felt at the very first hit? And so we went through the progression, not how the fight went down, but how the girls felt at each stage.

Bella: Well when Xi first hit me I felt mad like this:  Then, I also felt like this: . And like I wanted her to hurt too, like get back at her. So I felt like this: ,

and:  . After I hit her, I have to admit I felt a little like “doh!”, like this: . Now I still feel a little like that but also a little like this: .

When I asked her what she would prefer to feel like she said, less of the “doh!/oops” feeling and more of the happy one.

Xi said: When I accidentally hit Bella and she yelled at me I felt like this: 

But I also felt a little like this:  because I wish that I had been more careful getting the paper out.

And then when she hit me I felt sad still and also like this: .

I still feel sad but what I want to feel like is this: .

I stood in the background and said almost nothing, only oh, uh huh, and oh yeah. That’s it.

The girls started out with their bodies turned as much away from each other as they could while still facing the poster. As they pointed and described, the space between them closed. By the end they were nearly belly to belly and grinning, shyly at first and then full throttle. They hadn’t directly exchanged a single word. They hadn’t “worked” anything out, they simply saw what is was like emotionally for one another. And that was it. I eventually said: Are you guys looking for a sense of closure? It looks like you want to hug. And they did, collapsing happily into gigggles and each other.

It’s miraculous. It’s empathy via pointing and it takes very little. As dirty, tired, and crunchy as they were last night I had very little hope that things would turn out. I imagined surreptitious elbow jabbing during tooth-brushing and crying ourselves into bed. I imagined herculean emotional feats on the part of mama, a collapse on the couch in exhaustion kind of evening. Instead we snuggled, all three of us in the big bed, close, warm, and well-loved. They drifted off to sleep with smiles on their faces.

Holy shit.





Entry filed under: Feeleez. Tags: , , , , .

Fleeting As They Are Now Is The Very Best

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. 6512 and growing  |  October 22, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Wow. That is a beautiful series of events and so much more true and effective than the “look, you hurt her. Now say you’re sorry” business that we do around here.

    I’m crossing my fingers on he TWO Feelez giveaways I’ve entered recently.

    • 2. nataliechristensen  |  October 22, 2010 at 2:15 pm

      I hope you win!

  • […] For more on using the Feeleez poster to facilitate empathizing between kids, check out Natalie’s post here. […]

  • 4. kris laroche  |  October 22, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    yeah. today we got a fish and it seemed a little off when we brought “her” home, and elliott went up to the feeleez poster and pointed to the hurt elbow one and said, “star feels like this”. these tools are good. and i’m with you, what a doofus for not using them more around here!

  • 5. Christie  |  October 23, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    we use feeleez every night. My daughter picks out all the ones that strike her (her largest night has been 17), then she deals them out telling me what about her day felt like for each one. When we first got the feeleez, she was totally not the right kid for them. She never liked to talk feelings or share worries. I was thoroughly surprised when she took right to them. We started out with the coloring pages and some nights she’d ask to flip through the pages. Then, I bought the tiles. They’ve been so great this fall as she entered 3rd grade going into to school for the first time.

  • 6. dig this chick  |  October 24, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Love it Natalie. I appreciate your honesty in this story. I also appreciate feeleez! Every time I visit the poster or game with Margot we are better for it. Off to pick the winner! Thanks for your support and thanks for making such a cool thing. 🙂


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