Breathe for connection

“I can’t stop crying!”

She’s told me this a lot recently. I generally don’t ask her to. Enough adults struggle to express their feelings. I’m one of them.

But this time I needed her to stop crying. Ophelia had just fallen asleep in the sling on my back and I really didn’t feel prepared to soothe two crying children at once.

We’d left the zoo. On foot because our car is broken. She was on her scooter and we were going uphill, which would have been fine except we’d stayed out too long. We may have had too much sun. I was conscious that we needed to hurry or we’d miss ballet.

It amazes me the leaps my almost-four-year-old’s emotional intelligence has taken. She articulates for me what I can’t discern in times like these: “I *can’t* stop crying.” Can’t. Not won’t.

I put my arms around her, aware that I’m risking waking the fourteen-month-old on my back. It’s a risk worth taking.

“Let’s breathe,” I suggest. We’ve been doing this every now and then. I say breathe in or out and we both do.

We breathe for me as much as for her.

Breathing gives me a chance to stop and think about what’s happening before I react. Sometimes it’s all I need to help me calm down. Particularly if they’re both crying, I need to breathe, to visualise, to pray, because some sort of alarm goes off in my head and renders me anxious, prone to getting shouty.

And her?

When we’d stopped breathing, she wiped her eyes, smiled, got back on her scooter and nearly beat me to the top of that hill.