I've survived hurricanes in the South and tornadoes in the Midwest.
I've witnessed that eerie sense of calm one moment, an ambush of fury the next, and wild temperatures swings within the same day.
You would think I'd be better prepared for the emotional storm that hits home with a preteen girl. You would be wrong.
There's an intensity in how quickly the climate in the home can change, leaving you searching for some kind of shelter. It's reminiscent of the turbulence of toddlerhood for good reason. Both are times of rapid physical and emotional development, boundary testing, separating and clinging.
It's an isolating and confusing time for children and their parents.
Now, along comes Pixar to make us feel all the feels we couldn't well explain before "Inside Out." The blockbuster movie is not just a feel-good flick; it's a feel-sad, feel-angry, feel-scared, feel-disgusted adventure inside a young girl's head.
The plot of the movie is deceptively simple: 11-year-old Riley and her family move from Minnesota to San Francisco, and the move is hard on her. That pretty much covers the external events. The major drama unfolds inside Riley's head, as her emotions struggle to deal with these new circumstances and her feelings of loss.
The personification of her emotions -- joy, fear, anger, disgust and sadness -- and the way they work together and against one another resembles the mood swings and emotional turbulence of puberty.
I saw the movie with my 12-year-old daughter, one of her best friends and a 6-year-old and her mom. We each connected to it in our own way. The interplay of conflicting feelings, the cacophony of emotions sounded so familiar and felt authentic. The message -- that we often try too hard for happiness when we are struggling inside -- feels as true in middle age as it does in middle school. The reminder that sadness is also important, that it can guide us to seek comfort and help, is valuable.
But perhaps the most important takeaway from the film is the visually engaging way it helps us become aware of that connection between what we are feeling and how we respond to those emotions. Being able to identify and name your emotions when you might be feeling overwhelmed or upset is a component of emotional intelligence.
When we can identify something, we can begin to understand it better.
For a child to realize that it's normal to have competing, overwhelming, intense emotions is a developmental discovery that helps pave the way to being able to process them and deal with those feelings in a constructive way.
The medical experts who consulted with Pixar on the film wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times, saying that emotions help organize our thoughts rather than disrupt rational thinking. They point us to what really matters. They provoke us to act.
Even when a child may recognize that she feels anxious or angry, she may not be able to make the connection to everything fueling those emotions. There's a learning curve to figuring out how your emotions are impacting your behavior and reactions. From there, you can begin to recognize your own power to gradually alter what you are feeling and how you are reacting.
Some adults never master these skills.
Both my daughter and I had the same thought after watching the movie: They should show this in every school.
She thought it was interesting that much of what happened in the movie happened inside someone's head, in that internal space it's often hard to make sense of.
"But what happened in the movie was happening to everyone in the theater," she said. "Everyone's emotions were working."
Even the shared experience of a mother and daughter watching another tween's emotional upheaval felt hopeful and healing.
It suggested the tumultuous changes in our own relationship would one day also become more settled.
Skies do eventually clear.