Acting Out Emotions and Pink Fingernails

Emma came home yesterday afternoon and showed me this.

“Pink,” she said proudly.  Jackie had taken Emma for a manicure.  And not only had Emma sat still for it, she liked it!  I’ve been giving Emma manicures and pedicures since she was a baby.  She likes having her toenails painted, but never her fingernails.   This was a first!

That afternoon we took the children swimming.  While Nic and Richard threw a football back and forth, Emma and I sat in the shallow end and Emma said, “No Sarah cannot throw the bottle.  Sarah!  You have to leave the room!  Sarah is sad.”  Emma then looked very sad and nodded her head.

Suddenly I had an idea from my conversation with my friend Ib, who has told me about her theatre training and how much that’s helped her.  I couldn’t figure out how to get Emma to act out the emotions she was saying, so instead I said, “Hey, Em, I’m going to pretend to be Sarah, okay?”

Emma nodded her head and grinned.  “Yeah, Sarah is sad,” she repeated.

I began to pretend-cry.

Emma watched me for a second with a little frown on her face and then she said, “Soufien is so angry!  Grrrr!”

I shook my fist and pretended to stomp my foot under the water while grimacing, “Oh!  That makes me so angry!”

Emma smiled, “Justus is happy!”

We went on like this for almost twenty minutes with Emma attributing an emotion to a child in her class and me acting out the emotion, though I did stumble a little on “shy.”   These are all emotions Emma has read about in the book – The Way I Feel – by Janan Cain.  Emma adores that book.  We’ve gone through at least three copies of it over the years.  But what is interesting is that Emma was taking all the emotions described in the book and applying a child she knew to each of them.  I don’t know that I’ve had a back and forth interaction with Emma that has ever lasted this long.  It was incredible.

When we got home, Emma donned her pink bathing suit, which also happened to match her pink fingernails, and ran through the sprinklers until it was time for dinner.  (Notice Emma’s string, which has resurfaced and she has added to in the past month.)

Today the Aspen Ideas Festival begins, so things will be a bit hectic for the next six days.  But I will continue to post here.

12 responses to “Acting Out Emotions and Pink Fingernails

  1. Ariane, You are wonderfully flexible, creative and adaptive in reaching out and interacting with Emma and the results seem to be beyond wonderful. I am so happy for both of you. As I read the end, about the 20 minute interaction, I could see the smile you had on your face as you wrote that and the happiness that filled your spirit and imagined Emma feels exactly the same way. Have fun at the festival!

    • Thanks so much Charlotte! It was beyond wonderful. She even began ad-libbing, saying things OFF script – “Charlie says, I did it! I did it!” She was prompting me to expound on the feeling of pride. So using some of the dialogue from the book I said, “I’m proud! I feel so proud. I wasn’t sure I could tie my shoes, but I can and I feel really proud!” Then she’d nod her head, as if to say, “yay Mom! Good job!” Another thing my friend Ib told me was to use lots of physical gestures like high fives, hip bumps and things like that as expressions of happiness and shared excitement. I started doing that with her last night and she really loved it. It’s exciting.

  2. Oooohhhhh…. Ariane! This is delightful! Sparked an idea for me:

    Emma might like the book “How are you Peeling: Foods with Moods.”
    And maybe the book “Hug” by Jez Alborough… H loved these ones – Check them out on line…

    I found that story was such a powerful way to help H understand concepts and emotions and to connect… Such a great way to introduce big ideas.

  3. Have you read “Replays” by Dr. Karen Levine & Naomi Chedd? Great little book with suggestions on how to use this kind of play to reduce anxiety, increase flexibility & build coping skills. Sounds right up your alley, think you might find it useful.

    All the best!

  4. I love reading this blog! I get so many insights and great ideas! Thank you so much for that. And the pink nails?? So so pretty!! I love the emotions “game” you played, thanks so much for a great idea (and the book, too, I’ll definitely check it out!)

  5. Wonderful example of “being present” for, and with Emma! A few days ago I was putting J to bed and I said to him, “let’s talk” and we laid there yakking — about what, I can’t quite remember, but I was following his lead in his fascination for a trash compactor he had recently seen at Trader Joes market. He seemed to really enjoy it and yesterday said “can we talk?” and I was really surprised. Your post reminded me of taking some time every day to follow his lead and talk with him even when most of the time I’m not sure what to do or say — thank goodness I took months of improv classes and these have helped me think on my toes, who knew these can come in so handy in parenting.

  6. Pingback: Parents Who Inspire Me

  7. Reblogged this on I WIN.

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