Monday, August 8, 2016

When Your Children See You Cry

Sometimes you just need a good cry. As Sadness from Inside Out says, “Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.” Crying can be cleansing and it can be helpful. It can also feel downright awful, to me, if I’m doing it in front of my children.

Last month, my daughter said something to me that made me spontaneously burst into tears. And this wasn’t a super cute moment and my sadness was surrounded by the fact that she was growing up too quickly. It’s that, at age 3, she doesn’t have the best capacity for long-term memory and her memory of people she once spent a lot of time with is fading. This startling reality hit me hard and the tears started flowing. I left the room I was in with them because I’m accustomed to  trying to keep my best face forward and I didn’t want my daughters to see me cry. They didn’t get the hint and followed me into the bathroom.

“What made you cry?” they asked, not understanding that Amelia’s innocent question of “Who is that?” could cause the tears to flow.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I immediately responded, not wanting to try to explain the hurt and pain of losing people. And on top of this loss, Amelia will soon have minimal to no memory of certain people that have been special in her life.

Their faces looked on in expectation and I quickly realized that my response was not adequate. For one thing, they were very concerned as they don't see me cry often. More importantly, if I tell them I don’t want to talk about why I’m crying, how in the world will I ever convince them to tell me why they are crying. I immediately recovered and said, “I do want to talk about it, I just needed a moment.” And then I told them I felt sad that we aren’t able to see our friend and was sad that Amelia couldn’t recognize him.

I would rather my kids not see my cry. But the reality is that I do cry sometimes. I would prefer to not feel sad. But, of course, we all feel sad sometimes. And I don't want my daughters to feel as though they have to hide their emotions and pretend that they aren't sad. Most of all, I always want them to know they can talk with me about how they are feeling, no matter what. I want them to always know that I’m here to listen.

The next thing my daughters did moved me even more. I may have cried even harder. They rubbed my arm and my back. They gave me a hug. They looked in my eyes as I told them the reason I was crying. They were caring and empathetic. And this is something we hope that all children can achieve. Because if you have empathy for another, you have kindness. 
At the end of the day there are only a few things I want for my children. Like all parents, I want them to be safe and happy and I want them to have kindness for others. If we can have these things then we have had success in raising our families. That just might mean I have to let them see me cry every now and again. I'm pretty lucky if this happens though because now I know it's going to mean I get a couple extra hugs.