Why I created Cam & Leo's Emotion School
Most days were like this one. Up at 5am to start making lunches. My then-husband would be off to the gym, leaving me to single-parent (again). I’d look forward to the blissful silence in the kitchen, sipping my coffee (hot!) while I chopped carrot sticks and spread humus into pita breads. Soon, I would tiptoe upstairs, relishing the last moments of noiselessness before waking them up.
Then came the first blow: “Uccccch…” my daughter would say on being nudged from her sleep. She’d pull the covers over her head. “I don’t wanna go to school….”
My eldest son, in the room next door, would fling himself out of bed, singing at the top of his lungs, and poking the morning monster that was my girl. “Aaaaa SHUT UP!!!” she would yell, as she thrust the pillow over her head, and dug into her bed more defiantly.
“I’m allowed to sing,” would be his retort.
“Waaaaaaa!” interjected the baby brother, who had been rudely awaked by all this noise and bickering. Sopping wet, I would change his diaper and pajamas while yelling over my shoulder at the other two in an attempt to prevent both from escalating.
It was 6:15am and already, I was a ball of stress.
Fast-forward a half hour and I still haven’t succeeded to drag the girl out of bed. I just keep working through the morning – change, brush teeth, prep breakfast – all the while yelling out periodically: “OK… It’s 6:30… we’re going to be late… It’s 6:45… time to get up!...”, my agitation rising with each calling-out.
My heart would fill with hatred for my selfish husband – how dare he take time for himself when I’m drowning in a sea of poorly behaved children who just don’t listen – “OK that’s it. Now there’s no time for breakfast. You’ll have to eat in the car on the way to school!”
“Nooooo!” she jolts out of bed and whines, suddenly. Big brother reacts: “Why are you always whining?!” Sister reacts back: “Shut up, stupid!”
“I don’t want THIS for breakfast,” says the baby, tossing his omelet on the floor.
“THAT’S ENOUGH!” I would scream into the ether. Some days, I would run to the bathroom and lock the door. Sit on the toilet and put my face in my hands. Just to hear the silence again. But you can’t stay in there forever.
Breakfast would get eaten. Teeth would get brushed. Backpacks would get packed. Intermittent with moment after moment of provocation. Stress. Anger. Frustration.
By the time we all pile into the car – late, at 8:15 – everyone is in a state. I go into lecture mode: “I just don’t get it. How many times do I have to ask you guys? Why don’t you do what you know you need to do? Why don’t you listen and cooperate?” This time, the silence that pervades the car is thick – with hostility and resentment.
I drop the crew off at school and am seized by a moment of guilt – for yelling. For getting angry. For lecturing. For getting sucked into the emotional havoc. For not being an effective leader to them. And for not being able to create the kind of family environment that I didn’t feel the need to escape
from. “Tomorrow will be a better morning,” I offer, listlessly, as they walk into their class lines. And I breathe a sigh of relief – the first breath I’ve really taken since my morning coffee.
As I drive away, a new feeling begins to well up inside of me – something that can only be described as ENOUGH. A tipping point. No more, I tell myself. I am not – we are not – doing this anymore.
This is just not how it should be, I tell myself. This is not how life was meant to be lived. The buck stops here. Today. Right now.
I created Emotion School to save my children – to create a better future for them and their future relationships. I created Emotion School for myself – I wanted a family that didn’t inspire me to breathe a sigh of relief when I dropped them off at school. I created Emotion School because relationships – all relationships, without exception – are difficult, or at least have their difficult moments and aspects, and because we weren’t born with the tools to navigate them well. On the contrary, most of us inherited entirely dysfunctional relationship “skillsets” and expectations, and most of us – like me and my crew – lead high-stress, often miserable lives.
I created Emotion School as a way to bring core therapeutic, psychological learning, practice, and benefit, to ALL PEOPLE, so that they could show up differently in the world – happily, healthily – and pass those adaptive, healthy ways onto the generation that comes after them.
No more high-stress mornings. No more tit-for-tat fighting. No more yelling. No more guilt. Or bitterness. Just… no more valuable life energy wasted.
Fast-forward a few years, all of us Cam & Leo's Emotion School graduates. I still wake up at 5am and pack lunches. I still savour the silence of that morning coffee. But when I go to get my little ones out of bed, it’s not with hesitation or fear. It’s with excitement and joy. “Good morning sweeties,” I croon as I scratch backs and don puppets. “What’s for breakfast?”, I’m asked as they roll out of bed, dress, and meet me at the table. We put on tunes and dance through our morning. Everyone helps. We get to the car by 8:00 – right on time – (almost) nag-free! and continue with our tunes or wonderful chats all the way to school. And when I say goodbye, it’s with a hug and an “I’ll miss you”. And you know what…? I really actually will.