Thursday, July 22, 2010


I get asked, at least once a day, "Mommy, how're you feelin'?"

Westley still speaks with a slight Elmer Fudd accent, so it often comes out, "how're you feewin'?" but there's such a weighty sincerity - a genuine interest - behind the words that it doesn't strike me as funny. He really wants to know.

I answer him as honestly as possible, trying to avoid any big, scary (to me) words. Always "a little tired," never "depressed." "Okay," not "overwhelmed." Sometimes even "fine" or "pretty good, buddy."

(I always make a point of asking Westley how he's "feelin'." His response is almost always, "Weegood!" - really good.)

Anyone important to Westley gets asked the question. When my parents come over, he always wants to know: "How're you feelin', MaMay? How're you feelin', Grandad?" I think Rob gets asked how he's feelin' almost as often as I do. It's very dear, actually.

It's also a bit mysterious. I'm not really sure where it came from. Not that "how are you feeling?" is an uncommon question, but it's not one that I use all that often. Additionally, I wonder whether this is something Westley latched onto as part of being in-tune with other people's feelings, or if it's a product of living in such an emotionally-flooded environment.

Is he into feelings because he has a depressed mother? I wonder.

Does Westley know I struggle with depression? He must. Not that he knows what that means, really, but on some level, he must understand...Something. Is. Up. It seems noteworthy that when I have a bad day, Westley does, too. We're connected, whether I like it or not. And while it's very sweet and dear to have a two-and-a-half-year-old pat your knee and say, lovingly, "Don't worry, Mommy," it's also heartbreaking.

I don't want my feelings to be a source of anxiety for my child. I don't want him to be concerned about me. That's so not his role. He's two! His job is to get bigger and learn things. He should not be riding Mommy's emotional roller coaster.

Westley deserves better than a depressed mother. And I'm working on it (every day). It's definitely not a quick-fix situation, though. I'm left worrying that while I'm moving towards "better," the ups and downs along the way are even more challenging to Westley than they are to me. Because while he might "know," he doesn't have the words or the ideas to really understand what's going on.

"How're you feelin'?"

I think he asks not because he wants to know, but because he wants to help...and talking to me about it is the best he can do.



Pamela said...

I like your post. I would love to have that lil kid you have. He is very sweet and cute. Of course you are connected to him and so he feel what you felt. You are the best mom! Congratulations. Keep on fighting, I know its not easy to keep that pain, but you have to move on. Thanks for sharing.

candace said...

Having a tuned in child is an example of how open and honest you are with him and that is wonderful. He is learning that it is ok to be sad and depressed sometimes, and personally that is a great lesson. I've been reading your blog for over 2 years now and it sounds to me that you deal with your depression in a healthy way and that you are not burdening Westley. You are going to be the lucky mom of a very sensitive, understanding little boy, congrats!

To get personal, I grew up with a severally depressed mother who attempted no control over her emotions and therefore taught us to overly control ours. I try really, really hard to make sure Emma sees my feelings (not in a scary way) but that crying is ok, being angry is ok and that being happy is ok too. I mean I keep many things hidden from her too because she doesn't need to see my meltdowns!

Being pregnant with a toddler is very hard emotionally and she sees me cry, (and unfortunately yell) regularly. We talk about it and she is learning about emotions. When I cry she says "mommy sad" and I tell her "yes, mommy is sad and that is ok." When she is sad or mad or happy, she tells me about it and we confirm that these things are good.

Right now we are going through some very rough toddler behavior and she is acting out all the time but instead of curbing this behavior or punishing it, we are encouraging her to get it out. I'm trying to get her to hit the bed or the exercise ball when she is mad instead of me, I'm trying to get her to scream into a pillow instead of in our ears. I don't know if these things will work but after spending so many years keeping it in, I want her to let it out and feel good about it. I'm pretty sure as she matures, the lessons will make sense to her and she will learn to control herself more but I hope she never suppresses feelings out of fear.

Molly said...

I think it's sweet that he's showing compassion and caring at this early age.

Amber, The Unlikely Mama said...

Oh hun, I know exactly how you feel. I think your post on depression last year was one of the first I read (and them wrote up a short post of my own on the same subject).

Weirdly enough, I recently wrote about a similar topic that you have here. How it's not our child's job to make us happy, and not fair to them that they have depressed mothers.

I think that you're aware of how your feelings can affect him is a huge step in the right direction. We can't always be thrilled with life, but at least we can explain ourselves to our children. Candace has the right idea! That letting your kids know that it's ok to have all emotions, and that none are good or bad inherently...and better yet, that they will pass.

laboriousliving said...

Sounds like you have a very empathetic, intuitive, and caring boy. What a lucky mom :) Chin up, with love like that you will overcome the depression.