If you see a child with a small heart drawn on their wrist, there’s probably a special reason for it. That’s because the simple symbol is often more than just a mere scribble. And after mom Liz Petrone came up with the heart idea, it went viral; as a result, the inking is now not only significant to Petrone’s son, but also to many other children across the country.
Petrone herself, meanwhile, is a journalist who also runs her own website, LizPetrone.com. And in her blog posts, the mother of-four does not shy away from opening up about personal elements of her life. In particular, she writes about her children, from their highs to their lows.
And Petrone has additionally penned an article entitled “Let’s Talk About Postpartum Depression. Please,” in which she discussed her mental health after the birth of her third child. The piece highlighted the importance of National Postpartum Depression Awareness Month and aimed to combat the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
In that blog post, Petrone also wrote, “We need to keep talking, even when we don’t want to, even when it’s unsightly or embarrassing or uncomfortable… Because one in eight women suffers from postpartum depression or anxiety following the birth of a child.” And in her closing line, she addressed all the women who have suffered like she has done, stating, “You are not alone.”
It’s clear, then, that Petrone advocates speaking out about mental health issues and raising people’s awareness of the same. So, when her youngest son, Luca, struggled with anxiety, it made sense that she would write about this as well. Consequently, in October 2017 she created a post on Facebook to describe a particularly challenging moment in her child’s life.
There, Petrone explained that while she and Luca had been waiting for an overdue school bus, the mom herself had grown agitated. Luca, on the other hand, had become quiet. So, Luca’s mother had attempted to calm her clearly worried child by reassuring him that the bus would come eventually. Even though he could not hear the vehicle or see it arriving, she had told him to have faith. And, of course, to the relief of Petrone, the bus did finally turn up.
Then, in November 2017 Petrone revealed on her website and Facebook page that her son’s anxiety had become stronger in recent times. She attributed this in part to the holidays slowly drawing closer, explaining that Luca had been pestering her about Christmas ever since he started school in September.
Unfortunately, though, Luca’s anxiety came to a peak one morning, and Petrone saw her son crying on the school bus. So, as the vehicle pulled away, she reached her hand out to Luca to show her son that she was there for him. But soon the bus was gone, and there was nothing more that Petrone could do for her child.
The following day, though, Petrone had an idea. As she and Luca waited at the bus stop, she fished a pen out of her coat pocket. Then, she took hold of his wrist and kissed it, marking with her lips where his blue veins ran with their shared blood. Here, she would go on to draw the small heart that would soon ignite a viral movement.
And at that moment, Petrone told her son, “I know it’s hard sometimes out there – I want you to look at this heart every time it feels like too much. I want you to look, and I want you to remember that no matter what happens out there, someone is here waiting for you to come home. Someone loves you.”
Then, Luca got on the bus, and his mother expected him to wave, smile or even burst into tears again. Instead, though, the child focused on the tiny shape on his wrist. Petrone later wrote of the occasion, “Maybe what we all need to remember is just that simple. Maybe it’s not a fix, not by a long shot, but it’s a comfort just the same, and comfort can go a long way when you know someone loves you.”
Soon, the Facebook page “Love What Matters” picked up the post and shared Petrone’s experiences. As a result, a little symbol of comfort that had initially been designed for one child was used by other parents. In fact, more than 1,500 people shared the post, and hundreds commented underneath to tell their own stories.
Fellow Facebook user Amanda Zapotochny even decided to try out the technique on her young daughter. She commented, “Thank you for this. My sweet first grader has a heart so big it cripples her at times. I have had to pick her up from school when it becomes too much. I am looking forward to trying this tomorrow with her. I have a feeling it will resonate with her much more effectively than any words I may have shared in the past. Bless you for sharing this with others in the same boat.”
And the effect that Petrone’s post seemingly had on other parents left the mom overjoyed. In reply to the comments, she wrote, “Thank you so much for sharing this message, Love What Matters! To all my mamas (and papas) with anxious little ones, I feel you. Also, I swear these kids are going to change the world with their big hearts. We just gotta get them there.”
Petrone is not the only mother to have come up with the heart idea, though. According to a September 2017 report from Metro, a British woman called Louise Mallet invented what she and her son, Max, call a “hug button.” Mallet explained on Facebook, “I could tell he was feeling a little emotional this morning, so we had a chat and came up with the idea of having a heart each, and if we pressed it, it sent a hug to the other one.”
Like Luca, Mallet’s son found comfort in the heart. Indeed, after the child had returned from school, he went on to inform his mother that the idea had had worked. And according to Mallet, Max said, “I pressed it for a long time mummy, but I didn’t cry.” Mallet subsequently shared her method on a Facebook page called The Motherload, where other struggling parents mimicked the idea. Metro also reported that Louise still uses the technique to get her son through each day at school.
What’s more, another commenter on the Love What Matters post has revealed that they have also employed a similar technique. She explained, “My daughter gets quite anxious in various situations; one of them being on rainy days at school last year. As much as she was supported and reassured, she still struggled to cope during indoor wet playtimes.”
First, the girl’s mother tried to reassure her with words. But when this failed, it was time to resort to another method. She wrote, “I drew a heart and a sunshine on my hand and explained to my daughter that if I drew one on hers too, that at any time she felt sad or worried during the day she could look at it and know that I had one on my hand too… My daughter’s tears literally turned into a smile immediately.”
And the commenter continued, “Little anchors like this are a great way to stabilize feelings of anxiety and keep a connection throughout the day. Great for a first day at school or on those wobbly days.” For children with anxiety, then, a small symbol on their hand or wrist might be just what they need to get them through difficult times.
As for Petrone, she continues to share her experiences and details of her family life online. In particular, she continues to write about mental health and the stigma surrounding the topic. At the start of 2018, for example, she broached the subject of January – a month known for bringing people down. Nevertheless, Petrone reminded everyone, “You are not alone. Even when it feels like it.”