Monday, May 3, 2021

Mommy tales: Stop Crying, and other lies I told myself about child emotions

Saturday, Dean was crying. A. Lot. It is actually quite typical. I get it. 

I am emotional. I remember being young and my dad saying, “Stop crying!” I was often called cry baby by family and peers. 

It wasn't until the last couple of years that I have really embraced this about myself. Now, crying is a gift. It is something I am proud of. 

My dad once shared a seminary lesson he taught, where at the time, people carried vials around their necks to collect their tears because those tears were considered more than gold and were also thought to have healing powers. (I just did some research on this and even though there is historical debunking of this happening right now, I like it anyway. If you are interested in knowing more about these “tear bottles” read this article about lachrymatory tear bottles.)

This story was important to me at the time, because instead of apologizing for crying, I gave myself permission to embrace it. Embracing this emotion has been so powerful for me to feel deeply and love that about myself. Whenever I am with students, I also give them permission to cry, and share that story my dad shared with me. I want to create that safe space for them. Crying is freeing and healing.

So then why on this good earth would I become one of those parents constantly trying to 'check' Dean’s emotions at the door? Why did I become one of those parents to shout, “Stop crying!”

It was easy to justify. I would tell myself:

  • It isn't that he is crying, it is the volume of his crying. So I tried to tell him to limit the volume

  • I have also asked him to go to the other room, so that way, he could be as loud as he wanted as long as it wasn't in front of me or others

  • I also thought, but his crying IS SO much. He cries over everything, especially when he gets wet with drinking water - he has no problem jumping in a river or lake with all his clothes….but the minute he spills, game over.

I have had well intentioned moms talk to me about raising brave and courageous kids and who have recommended books for me to read to be better at rearing emotional children, all of this while trying to comfort and soothe a crying child.

But while Dean was again crying for the 4th time in an hour at a birthday party, I decided I wasn't going to say or do anything. I got into the headspace of trying to help him through his emotions based on all those parenting books and things that I saw other moms doing.

And you know what….that is a crummy space to be. To be in my kids space all. the. time. trying to tell him how to live? 

Sure, there are times for interference and teaching moments, but wow...I became a micromanager mom in order to somehow understand how to parent. I thought if I could know different techniques for parenting or learn how others do it, I would be better, he would be ‘better’. I would say the right things and raise amazing properly "emotioned" kids. 

But you know something: My kids are freaking amazing!! They came that way.

You know something else: I am freaking amazing too.

So, here is what I am going to do:

  • Realize I am doing my best, and my best is good enough for my kids

  • Embrace that I am emotional, and that doesn’t make me weak therefore: my children are emotional, and that doesn’t make them weak

  • Re-evaluate that I don’t care if others see my kids as cry babies, I will NOT view them that way and teach them the beauty in this form of expression

  • Recognize that people are all well-intentioned and that is ok, I will be choosy with which advice to take and not fault others for wanting to be helpful

  • Check-in with God on a regular basis to make sure I am understanding where I need to teach and where to step back

  • Demonstrate LOVE to my kids instead of micromanaging them

  • Maintain a realistic perspective that even though I have embraced these thoughts, recognize that I am human and will still probably say, “Stop crying” but not beat myself up if I mess up

  • Ask my kids more about why they are feeling those feels in order to help them communicate why they are feeling these deep emotions - because communication is beautiful

  • Stop falling in the trap of teaching my kids to not have and/or express emotion

  • Be better at asking, “What do you need mommy to do” when they come to me in safety - and let them take the lead on my involvement

  • Teach where I need to, but not make it my life’s mission to make every moment a teaching moment