As usual I accompanied Echo while she selected her outfit today. She reached for the pale blue velvet dress that she adores. The same dress that Xi wore and adored. The same dress that I despise, that every time the child chooses it I wish that I had slipped it into the Goodwill box years ago. It's just drab, and washed out, and makes the girls complexions appear sickly.
Of course I never say so.
Then Echo grabbed a long-sleeved lime green shirt to go under. Gasp. Not the color combo I would have veered toward.
Of course I said nothing.
Then she selected black and grey cheetah-print leggings. Gag.
I said not a word.
For the finishing touch she fished out a grey and green pin striped sweater vest. Woah.
But not a peep out of me. Instead I composed a neutral face and helped her slip it all on. This was not my favorite outfit but high up on my Most Important Rules Ever list is to not comment on my children's appearances. If they want me to celebrate with them as they twirl in delight at their ensemble I cheer right along, but I am not going to impose my own opinions on them, triggering a lifetime of concern over how others think they look.
But Echo had something to say. She admired her get up, smoothing the sweater vest over the velvet adoringly and said: Wow! This looks like an outfit a mama would wear!
Now hold up just a minute. A mama would wear that? Which mama... There is one particular mama that looms large in this child's world. Could she be talking about that mama?
I immediately thought of the Empathy Hotline. The Feeleez team has assembled an Empathy Hotline group on Facebook so that folks can post a status and receive empathy for it from awesome people around the world. It's rad. My mind ran through some empathy seeking options:
My daughter picked a heinous outfit today. Ugh.
My daughter picked a heinous outfit today and thinks it's something that I would wear. I feel frumpy and unattractive.
My daughter has cute clothes in her drawer and never picks those. So frustrating!
My daughter picked out an outfit I would never wear. I'm feeling so inspired by her free will and personal style. I love it that she chooses what feels good to her.
The thing about seeking empathy is that it really requires you to decipher what it is you are actually feeling. Before I go seeking support for feeling like a frumpy pile of unattractive mom-ness I want to know for sure that that's what I actually feel. Before dear people from around the world sit with me and my feelings and echo them back I want to be sure that what I am hearing in response resonates. In this light the options clicked past fairly quickly and before I knew it I was loving the outfit Echo picked out, loving that her personal style is all her own. It seems that imagining getting empathy helped me land in the best-fitting emotional state.
And I didn't type a single word! I didn't even move toward the computer and already I was reaping the benefits of empathy.