Coaching Levi through Emotions

Levi walks into the church with his class.
Levi walks into the church with his class.
Levi participated in his First Communion last Sunday. He has accepted this rite of passage I’ve introduced for him, but he hasn’t had any particular high or low emotion about it. He certainly loves getting dressed up for church, always insisting on wearing his Sunday Best.

So, in many ways, this Sunday was no different. The biggest difference was that this was First Communion, so we had to arrive early for set up and photos.

He was excited when we arrived. Most of his 2nd grade class was also participating in this rite of passage. I had to read, so I had to leave his group 20 minutes before mass started. The typical, “Mommy, don’t go!” commenced. I pealed myself away, and readied myself at the church.

I saw him, and his class, again just before church started. We were all waiting outside, for our cues. Levi asked me to sit with him, and after getting permission from his teacher, we arranged a way for me to join them.

What I hadn’t noticed at the time was the sort of typical emotional roller coaster my son ventures on, daily.

After I was done reading, I joined him in his pew. His behavior wavered from paying attention to mass to small misbehaviors. Small misbehaviors that I worked on correcting. Pay attention to this. Control that. Mind yourself. It’s not time for questions. It’s time to pay attention.

First Communion went without a hitch. Levi couldn’t help but tell me that the wine was less than desirable. The small misbehaviors continued, along with the small corrections. Usually, we don’t allow treats post-Mass when small misbehaviors are so consistent. But, today was special, so full participation in the reception was, in my mind, mandatory.

We walked over, and it was quite full – both First Communion families and regular Mass attendees. So, I found a space next to one of his friends, and pulled up a chair for only Levi at this already crowded table.

One mom invited us to brunch, knowing we didn’t have plans. I made a call to check in with my husband, but there was no answer. I checked in on Levi, and everything was buoyant and fine. Then, I needed to chat with another mom. I was gone, maybe, 45 seconds. When I walked the 20 or 30 feet across the school hall, Levi had leapt from his chair in tears!

I escorted/chased him towards the bathrooms. I wanted to be able to talk to him, privately, without any onlookers. He walked into the men’s bathroom. I scolded him to come out, and we went to the unisex bathroom. Tears, quick breaths, red face. Finally, he says, “She took your seat!”

The best I could decipher was that his friend’s sister took the last remaining seat. A seat that Levi had assigned to me. A seat I never knew was vacant and certainly didn’t assign to me.

Levi helping me frost the cake.
Levi helping me frost the cake.
We couldn’t even leave because there was always someone else to chat with. Levi only wanted to go home. I told him if we went home, we’d miss brunch.

After two brief chats, both with parents (and principals!) who assured this was a normal phase, we went to the car.

The poor boy was still a mess when we got home. We tried to help him name what he was feeling, offering sad, mad, frustrated, to no avail. We gave the poor boy time outs hoping he’d be able to ponder more, to no avail.

Finally, we settled on making him sit in my husband’s for some parental snuggles while I made frosting, all of us in the kitchen.   I also took him aside and rubbed his feet with Citrus Bliss and Balance – the goal to help him be more open to his feelings and even them out. Soon, his mood changed. He was never able to fully tell us what was going on, but he was able to lighten his mood.

We were able to finish the cake, he changed, we lunched, we had cake.

Then, almost two hours later, Levi wanted to know when we were going to brunch. Among other connections we are still working on – cause and effect tops the list. Although we ended in a good mood, the progress always seem slow trying to help him make these emotional connections.