Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe

writing for parents of the bravest hearts

Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe

green writing for parents

Emotional IQ

Sam and I had the most amazing exchange this morning, one that belongs in some kind of magazine about how mature people should deal with powerful emotions.

First, you’ve got to set a stage for two people completely, utterly and totally misunderstanding each other. We’d both just gotten up — and neither of us are morning people. Plus, I had had only a sip or two of the morning joe, so that’s two strikes against me.

Sam was opening a vitamin jar to get a tablet out and suddenly it just flew from his hand and rolled on the floor. I didn’t see any of this. I just heard him yell “OH!” so loud adrenaline rushed to my nerve endings, so full and fast that it hurt my fingertips.

I thought my reaction was amazingly calm, considering. I turned around, puzzled that nothing seemed to be wrong, and said, “Don’t yell so loud in the house.”

That upset Sam terribly. He left the room.

A few minutes later, he told me that my comment made him feel like a little kid again and brought back bad childhood memories. That brought tears to my eyes. I tried to apologize for the comment, but Sam said we shouldn’t talk about it anymore, since it was about to make me cry.

I told him no, please, I welcomed the chance to say I’m sorry not only for hurting his feelings today, but also for any bad childhood memories and we could talk a little more if he wanted.

Sam said he remembered misbehaving, and it was in the past and it could stay in the past. I told him I thought that was very mature.

Then I said, you know, I didn’t know why you yelled so loud. I thought I needed to call 911 or something. He explained what happened, I told him I understood now why he yelled, and then he said he understood why I felt like I needed to say something about the yelling.

What Sam brought to the conversation that was so amazing was believing me when I said I loved him and never wanted to hurt him. That was part of my apology. I told him that it’s important to me to stick up for myself, and I’ve noticed that when someone sticks up for themselves, it can be hard to do without hurting the other person sometimes.

The whole conversation took all of 10 minutes and brought me such a sense of wonderment. I’m still trying to figure out where this supposed lack of social understanding comes from in people with autism. Sam is so clear-eyed and clear-headed. His father and I could not have had such a conversation early in our marriage. Even later in our marriage, it would take two hours to wade through all the emotional thicket to get to the same place.

I think it’s the opposite. I think the rest of us lack emotional intelligence. We play stupid mental games with each other, and we don’t trust each other.

When Sam doesn’t trust someone, he just doesn’t deal with them at all. How smart is that?

Any girl would be lucky to have him.

1 Comment

  1. TXsharon on November 17, 2010 at 6:31 am

    …a powerful and loving exchange that made me tear up. Any boy would be luck to have you for a mother too.

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