Bean is a sensitive kid.
Most of the time, that’s a good thing. Her ability to tune in to the nuances of emotion and situation make her an amazingly astute critical thinker. As a consequence of her awareness, she’s a fantastic friend who can offer up compassion or encouragement (or deliver a necessary kick in the rear) almost before it’s needed. She radiates a kind of loving, matter-of-fact acceptance of people and circumstance that makes her approachable and wholly likable.
There’s a downside to being tapped in, though, and I think that Bean is starting to feel the effects of sending out more than she’s getting back.
She’s got one friend in particular who’s going through a really difficult patch right now, and Bean’s been spending a lot of her energy supporting (and worrying about) her. I had to cut short last night’s visit with Sweet Pea and her family, in fact, when Bean called me up to the loft to look at a tumblr post her friend Iris had written about wanting to try to kill herself. When phone calls to the girl’s parents didn’t get answered, we got in the car and drove over to her house. When we arrived, Mom answered the door to tell us that she knew why we were there, that her husband was out chasing Iris down (she’d fled the house for the park in a fit of pique), and that she had no idea what to do next. She warned Bean that Iris had been “furious” at her for “telling” (Bean had alerted her friend group to the threat, and they were “keeping Iris busy” on social media while we were trying to contact her grown-ups), and to expect her to be angry when she got back. Bean was unfazed; she actually said, “she can scream and throw things for all I care. She can tell me she hates my guts. I just want to make sure she’s okay.”
When Iris and Dad returned, though, there was no yelling or throwing things. Well, there sort of was; Iris took one look at Bean and threw herself into her arms. I talked with Mom (having had some experience with this sort of thing with Sweet Pea, I felt qualified to offer some meaningful support) while Bean and Iris alternately talked and wept. About half an hour later, after everyone felt a little safer and more centered, we took our leave.
On the way home, I suggested that maybe I should find someone who Bean can talk to about all of the heavy lifting she does for other people. It’s good that she can be that source of energy, I told her, but she can’t expect to continue to be able to offer it if she doesn’t take care of HER energy, too. She agreed, so this morning’s to-do list includes calling around for a recommendation for a good counselor.