I am proud of my daughter and of myself.
Last week, I saw a flier at my work for a stuffed toy drive in honor of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week (May 4th – May 9th). The toys will be delivered to children who have experienced trauma.
When I came home, we sorted through her stuffed animals to select which ones were ready to be loved by another child. Of course, there were many stuffed animals that hadn’t been played with for years, only to be proclaimed “My favorite! Not that one!”
So I said, “Let’s take a break to read a book.” We read a book called “Just Enough and Not Too Much.” In the book Simon has a simple life and is very happy. Then one day he wants more. He gets more stuffed animals and more chairs and more hats. Then his house is too crowded. (Of course it didn’t look nearly half as crowded as our playroom or my daughters’ bedroom.) Simon decides to have a party and invite his friends over and to give each one of them a stuffed animal, a chair and a hat. After they leave he is left with his one favorite hat, his favorite chair and his one favorite stuffed animal. He decides he is perfectly happy, with not too much and just enough.
After reading the book, I discussed it with my daughter. I asked about when he was happiest. Was he happiest when he had lots of stuffed animal or was he happiest when he had just enough? How did he feel after giving all of his friends toys, so that they had toys as well? I asked my daughter if she was ready to give up some of her stuffed animals to other children that might be feeling sick or sad. Then she was happy to sort through them and decide which ones to give away.
The next morning she asked me if she could keep Hello Kitty because she wasn’t ready to give her away. I said okay. And then I gave her a big hug and said I was very proud of her for giving up some of her toys to share with other children.
I am also proud of myself. My biggest fear is some trauma befalling my children. By finding a way to use my anxiety and fear to motivate an action that will help others, I found a way to channel my negative emotions in a healthy way. The psychological term for this is sublimation. According to the DSM-IV-TR, sublimation is an example of a defense at a highly adaptive level, “results in optimal adaptation in the handling of stressors” and promotes “an optimum balance among conflicting motives.”
So, it’s a little bit healthier than rumination, repression and locking your children away in a tower.
Please know that I don’t have parenting or my personal mental health down to a science. But it is nice to occasionally have a moment worth sharing.
About Abigail Burd, LCSW:
I am a mom to a preschooler and a toddler, as well as a professional who helps other parents. As a licensed psychotherapist in San Diego, CA, my special focus is on maternal mental health. I help women of childbearing years with topics related to pregnancy, postpartum adjustment and parenting.