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Permission to Feel

Permission to Feel Kindergarten Sadness some kind of paint by me

I painted this little picture to capture a time from my kindergarten year. The notes in top corner read, 'Feel the fullness of your sadness and disappointment, and it is safe to express it and show it.' *See note below

At a certain time of day we would sit on the rug and wait for our free time to go to stations set up around the room to play. The catch was that in order to play at a specific station you had to win a mad dash among 30 or so determined 5-year-old's to get a yarn pass with the correct picture of the station you wanted, and there were only a handful of them for each station, and only a couple very popular stations that most were vying for. 

The mouse with a boa was the picture on the dress up station that was my dream play station. Time and time again I made a mad dash, but wasn't the kind of kid to push and shove my way through the race from the carpet, and so often I arrived and got last pickings. This happened so often that if my sad little inner child remembers right, I maybe have gotten the token only once in a whole school year. 

It is funny how these first beginnings can follow us all the way into adulthood. A while ago I painted this picture to reach a place within of allowing that little one within me to feel sad, as I remember always having to keep a perfectly happy face, the little people-pleaser I was, and to push my feelings aside. This also extended into adulthood. Like most kids, I was so overwhelmed by emotion, I never expressed it to anyone, feeling I needed to tend to others, ironically and especially, to adults in my life, way before me. 

I painted this to remind me that if I had had the awareness and ability as that little five-year-old, perhaps there would have been great relief and release in letting myself stop and just feel disappointment, and even perhaps simply or kindly express that I was sad or disappointed. In fact, I can imagine that there might have been a slight possibility that the teacher could have changed the way the entire class operated to make it more fair, if I had been able to express myself to her. 

I try to remember as a teacher myself, and as a mother (when I am well-rested and aware that my kid's dynamic expressions of their emotions that feel directed at me aren't personal), that there is a rich and developing emotional world in our children, and that emotion is very overwhelming and difficult for them--and even for most adults.

I can't go back in time, but this permission to feel seems to have less bounds than I do, and makes its way back every time I give this permission to my students or to my children--tell them that it is safe to feel, and to even express what might bring some relief. I am learning not to push, however, as I see that the expression part isn't really possible with most who are so overwhelmed. They just need to move on, but I like to think that they will remember that someone saw them and asked them about their feelings.

It was amazing to me how painting this little scene was so healing, and I imagine that after letting herself softly feel her sadness, that it passed more completely, and that she got up and enjoyed whatever station she ended up in just a little bit more--and who knows, perhaps she found an interest in Lincoln Logs she never knew she could have or a new friend, and just maybe there was the essence of the dress up mouse in boa following HER around the room, lifting her spirit.

* I would now probably add to the painting notes to express feelings kindly and calmly, as I am way past being a proponent of harsh emotion thrown every which way, which usually just yields more brick walls and resistance from others, although I do acknowledge that for those who are of a meeker nature, and feel it unsafe/unworthy to express, just the beginnings of expression often need to be a little too fiery or clumsy in delivery, to exercise the voice--learning to walk, so to speak-- There is something life-giving in finding one's own voice, even if a little too fiery, and it seems to have a clarifying effect of its own if one remains heart-centered and open to guidance and growth, willing to learn to see themselves objectively. I do feel it is far less safe to have no voice.


  1. Thank you for this beautiful poignant story.
    As imperfect teacher, mother, friend, I am sad for times I may have caused a similar pain in anyone and feel grateful for your graceful forgiveness for the situation, the teacher and yourself.

    1. Thank you, dear Lea, for visiting here. I join you in spirit and lovely imperfect humanness. I have sent you an email!XO

  2. Such wisdom and gentleness in this post. Your memories of kindergarten brought back mine. In kindergarten, we all had to line up in a little hallway to wait to use the one bathroom. After my turn, I thought it would be fun to come out of the bathroom roaring like a lion. The teacher did not agree and made me stand in the corner. I still feel no shame about my desire to roar, though I can now understand the teacher's lack of appreciation. What does linger as shame is joining the group that knew how to snap their fingers when I actually didn't. I faked it. I have since learned how to snap my fingers but the shame of being an impostor has not entirely dissipated. Your post encourages me to have compassion of that little girl.

    1. Dear Elizabeth, this comment went right to my heart. I felt I was with you as your little roaring girl. I absolutely LOVE that you roared like a lion. I find it so beautiful, as that is exactly you, and your fiery Maeve. It is so perfect and so charming to know your kindergarten self was already paving the way! Interesting about the snapping. The fact that we have to pretend so often. Thank you so much for sharing. I could feel that impostor shame. Your sharing helps me have more compassion here too. I will admit there was a little part of myself after posting this post that thought, why did I post this, it's stupid. I'm glad I did, because your story was so meaningful. Thank you. You realize you've commented for 18 days in a row. You deserve a medal, and no pressure to make it a longer streak. Just be you--no need to pretend here:)


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