Scarlet has this book called “Feelings.” We got it from the Pediatrician’s office during one of her babyhood check-ups. They used to give us mini square board books that would inevitably wind up in her stomach judging from the bite marks and missing chunks. Now they give us complex books about colors, numbers, letters and food. “Feelings” was the first big book they gave her. It features pictures of children in various comfortable and uncomfortable settings and their facial expression reactions to their surroundings. Each page has one word to describe the child’s feelings: “Happy.” “Sad.” “Scared.” “Angry.” “Nervous.” She didn’t understand the book for a long time and probably tried to chew it a few times, but recently, understanding feelings has become a bit of an obsession for Scarlet. It may be the number one topic of conversation during our time together.
To her, feelings can be divided into neat little categories. She is happy, sad, angry, scared, and anything but happy is only temporary. Her goal is to get through the hard parts and get right to happy. Her other goal is to get me through the hard parts and get me right to happy. These are important life lessons from a two-year-old. If only it was as easy for me.
Living with Scarlet is a bit like having a live-in therapist.
I break the garbage can lid. I want to swear but just hiss, “Crap!” Scarlet appears out of nowhere at my side. “What’s wrong, Mama? Are you happy? No? Are you sad? Yes? Let me help. Now. (tries and fails to fix garbage can lid for me) “Are you happy? Yes? Good.”
Scarlet whines and pees a little on the floor. I say, “Scarlet, pee goes in the potty, ok?” She says, “Ok! Oh! Mama. Are you happy? No? Are you sad? I’m sorry. Am I mean? No? Am I happy? Yes. Are you happy? Good.”
Scarlet and I are walking down the street, a perfect sunny and warm day, holding hands. Smiling. We drink in the air. She turns to me and asks, “Are you happy, Mama?” I reply, “Yes. Yes, I am.” She says, “I’m happy too.”
I read her a book before bed. She falls asleep in my arms during “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.” I think she’s asleep. I shift to put her in bed. She startles awake, looks into my eyes and asks, “Are you happy, Mama?”
Every time she pees in the big toilet, she looks into my eyes and asks, “Are you happy, Mama?” Yes, yes I am.
Kid’s an empathetic genius.
Over last weekend, we three were in the car. We were arriving home after a spectacular night. Little did I know it was about to get better with ice cream. I turned to Cassidy and I said, “I’m happy. I’m really happy.” He said, “Me too.” It was a whole night where problems melted away. Money stress, house stress, job stress, potty training stress, what? Didn’t exist. Why?
It had all started earlier that evening with a trip downtown to see Northampton’s Chalk Art Festival and Contest. The streets were filled with art and people. We also attended an art gallery opening featuring a friend’s drawing. Before all of this on the way there, we barely got 1/4 mile from home when we looked out our car windows and up in the sky to find..BIG BALLOONS!
So we went into town and saw the chalk art and painting art and then followed those balloons to our favorite park, Look Park, where they were tethered and lit up and taking people up into the sky.
It was a night of wonder and the unexpected. Art, beauty, family, childhood memories that stick. It made me love my town and my community that much more to see the like-minded children and adults, mouths agape, gazing at the sky. Looking at local art. Eating local food. Clinging onto these last days of summer, while a fall chill moves in. And no one minds the chill.
I know I will never forget the sight of lit-up balloons on a beautiful, pre-fall night. I will never forget being with my family and seeing just their shadows in the distance as night closed in and I lagged behind, happily and as always, taking pictures of it all.
I think some part of her will remember it all too – the night we chose fun and beauty over her going to bed on time.