I’ve written many times about the striking differences between my eldest daughter and my step son. Their emotional states are a true example of how different they are, and on a weekend away on the moors it was never so clearly demonstrated.
Miss Rose has mood swings, and her moods are very easily changed. If you imagine your moods on a scale of 1 to 10, she’ll reside around the 8 mark. She will be cheerful and happy, excitable and incredibly positive. She is full of love and enthusiasm. A real joy. Then she’ll drop incredibly fast to a 2. She’ll start to cry, she’ll need to take herself away from the room and have “alone time” to try and cope. She’ll curl in a ball, hide her face and cry in despair over the tiniest of stimuli.
Then there’s the times she hits 10 or 0. She will shoot to a 10 and be absolutely manic. She can hardly hear you. She’s excited to the extreme, visibly shaking. The drop to a 0 is horrible. She’s broken. She cries, she screams, she can hardly breathe. She has been sick because the crying has been so extreme. She thrashes around. She’s had full on panic attacks. It breaks my heart, and it’s incredibly hard to cope with.
Then Z is the opposite. He’s a constant 5. Occasionally he’ll get excited and rise to a 7. Occasionally he’ll get sad and drop to a three. But mostly he bobs along about a 5. The only time he truly wavers is when he gets angry, and that can overwhelm him, but as long as nothing triggers that in him he’s just a standard 5.
Last weekend we went away for a weekend on the moors. Miss Rose was homesick. Z wasn’t bothered, he’ll go wherever he needs to go. Miss Rose desperately missed her nanny. Z missed his mum but no more than the other times he goes without her. Meal times were different and Miss Rose needs her meals, Z prefers to go without food. Nights were late and Miss Rose gets incredibly tired, whereas Z will just carry on regardless until he’s told to go to bed. Miss Rose was desperate to please and felt social pressure to perform, Z is unbothered by what people want of him and is just himself regardless of circumstances.
Miss Rose’s emotional state is massively impacted by all of those things. Z’s is not. Z wasn’t being forced to eat anything he didn’t want so didn’t get upset. Nobody took his toys so he didn’t get upset. Nobody tried to touch him, hug him, pick him up, so he didn’t get upset. All the triggers that might bring about a mood fluctuation or anger didn’t happen. Miss Rose was on the edge of an emotional breakdown all weekend.
Not only was Miss Rose struggling with her emotions, often curling in a ball and sobbing, needing cuddles and reassurances, often becoming so emotional she just had to be carried away to calm down in a quiet space, but she was extra tired so she was even more clumsy than her already clumsy self. She fell off the sofa, she fell off the chair, she fell off the toilet. She slipped in the shower, she ran into the wall, she cracked her head on a worktop. She fell in the garden, she broke her thumb nail on the wall.
Life for Z will always be easier in so many ways. His emotional calm means he’ll never hit the lows Miss Rose hits. He never gets tired enough to lose control of his physical abilities. Life will be easier in so many ways because he’ll just handle everything that’s thrown at him with his usual unflappable way. Notices where he is, who else is there, what’s going on, and just ambles on, whereas it all impacts Miss Rose in huge, huge ways.
But Z will never hit the highs either. Because even though Miss Rose’s highs can reach almost intolerable levels of high, they’re still high and she feels amazing. She feels joy like nobody else. Z is known as “hard to impress” whereas anything you present Rose with she thinks is the most amazing thing in the world. She is the most brilliant person to give gifts to. Her grandma often brings her a Starburst (her favourite sweets) and she recently commented how every time she presents them to her, her face absolutely lights up, her mouth is wide and her eyes are sparkling, like they’re the most wonderful thing in the world she never gets to see, even though it’s practically every time she sees Grandma, which is practically every day.
I understand how hard Miss Rose will find life sometimes. I understand because that’s how I find life. That’s how my mum finds life, that’s how my aunty finds life, and that’s how my grandfather found life. Life is full of joy and wonder, but also full of emotional pain.
All I can do for Rose is try and teach her ways to manage it. I am still learning but I’m getting there. When I feel the low coming I know I need to funnel that energy into something that course corrects me. I rearrange furniture because it gives me a sense of control and takes all the energy and focus off the dark cloud that is forming. When I feel the highs I am able to write and I write well. I will write chapters and chapters of my books because I have this energy soaring through me that I can apply in ways that are helpful.
The hard times come when I am unable to manage it. As much as I can teach these coping mechanisms to Rose they won’t help on these weekends away when you’re taken away from the things you’ve learned to use to cope. And sometimes no matter how hard you try to funnel that energy there’s nothing that helps anyway and you just have to ride the wave feeling ridiculously amazing with no outlet, or desperately low with no support. And I can’t save her from that. It’s who she is.
Our children are so remarkably different it really does strike you. Their emotional states both bring advantages and disadvantages, depending on what’s happening in their lives at the time. All we can do is work with them, help them understand themselves, and hope to steer them into lives that are as full of joy as possible.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!