When my kids were little we did this thing called the Family Meeting.
It worked like this: someone was having a bad time. It might be me, tired and impatient with them not listening, and starting to yell and lose it. It might be one of them melting down on a sibling and wrecking someone's Lego tower or whatever.
I would find myself thinking "what the hell is going on here?"
And if I remembered I would say: "Okay guys! Family meeting!" But sometimes it was one of the kids who said through tears: "I need a family meeting!"
Those words meant one thing: everyone stopped what they were doing. I turned off the stove. They looked at each other and dropped their stuff. Practically ran upstairs.
The family meeting was held in my bed. We all climbed in, fully dressed. Grabbed whatever blankets were needed. I liked to sit curled up with my back against the wall. The kids liked to dive under the quilt and yank it up to their chins.
It was magic. I wish I could say it was something other than simply tumbling into bed together. But it probably wasn't. Like a spell, whatever had been building broke. Whatever barriers had gotten between them or between us, there was immediate relief. It was a little fun. A little goofy. They got cuddly and giggly and expectant-looking.
And I wish I could freeze that moment, right there.
"Okay, so what's going on with you?" I would say. Or maybe "I don't know why I'm so cranky and yelling at you guys."
There was no lecturing. It wasn't long. It was usually just the sad or mad or tired person basically saying ... I'm mad or sad or tired. No judging. No parenting lesson. The beleaguered person just vented for a minute. Often they blamed something that had happened earlier ("So and so stole my something at school today and the teacher didn't believe me!")
A little bit of light commiseration. A little bit of someone else saying "yeah, I hate that!" or "That was mean!" or "I'm grumpy and hungry too." Like that.
Something about pressing the pause button on life.
Something about saying "come here" (let's be together) instead of "go to your room" ( be by yourself when your feelings are messy) was very nurturing and re-charging and re-orienting.
Something about saying "your feelings are important to me."
I wish we did it way more than the handful of times I remember we did.
I can still see the way their eyes lit up. The way they dropped everything to run to my room.
So good feeling loved. Feeling valued and noticed. Having your whole self matter - not only your pleasant, acceptable, nice self.
But bring your whole beautiful, messy, irritating, not-always-the-right-time-for-this, self.