You Never Let Me Cry

You Never Let Me Cry | Twin Cities Moms Blog

I’m not the mom who handles conflict well. Growing up, I was the peacemaker of the house. Once I even confessed to stealing a box of Snickers candy bars to avoid the uncomfortableness of my parent’s inquisition. Meanwhile, in the next room, my brother was reveling in his good fortune and his little sister’s weakness with peanut buttery chocolate all over his hands. Needless to say, I went to bed early that night, but it was worth it to have the peace back into the house.

Generally, when my children cry, I have several responses. Granted, none of them being the right response. But I’m just being honest here.

1. “If you want to cry, go do it in your room. I don’t want to hear you cry. Don’t slam your door. Don’t stomp your feet. Go ahead and bury your face in your pillow and cry away. Rejoin the family when you are done.”

2. I plead and beg pitifully for them to stop crying. Insert multiple exaggerated sighs and annoyed eye rolls. “Pretty please stop crying. Please? Please? Mama’s skin is crawling. I’ll scoop you a bowl of ice cream. Just stop crying.”

3. Complete exasperation in an almost frightening decimal! “For the LOVE! Stop! Crying!” And I simply walk away from the conflict.

Avoidance is not exactly an effective problem solver is it? Neither is ignoring my children’s tears, getting angry with their emotions or buying away their feelings. Instead of resolving the conflict, my methods often have a way of stirring up more angst.

I am just recently learning how to recognize my children’s tears as their way of communicating their “Big” feelings to me. It was my youngest daughter, Lili, who was my biggest teacher.

During one of our early morning scrambles to get out the door, she was all upset over the tangles and snarls in her hair. I calmly asked her to stop crying.

Her response? “YOU NEVER LET ME CRY.”

It was as though time had stopped as I looked into her big blue, tear-filled eyes.

“Really? I don’t?” I asked.

“NO! You don’t. And I’m hurting.” She angrily crossed her arms as though she was trying to protect herself from me and my response. Of course she was referring to her sensitive scalp hurting, but in that moment I could clearly see that deeper inside she was in pain.

Momentarily stunned, I quickly apologized and gave her permission to cry.

And she did. She crumpled into my arms and I held my sweet sobbing daughter for five minutes straight. Then she took a deep breath, wiped her eyes, gave me a big smile and asked me to finish brushing her hair. The rest of the morning it was as if she was walking on air. You could clearly tell she felt lighter and more free.

But don’t we all feel better after a good cry?

Just the other day a friend of mine and I were chatting it up in the parking lot after a gym class. Without warning, my own tears began to fall. I am thankful that my compassionate friend offered a hug and a few words of understanding and encouragement. My tears didn’t annoy her or make her feel uncomfortable, instead she loved me through them and let me cry. Such a simple act that made me feel like I wasn’t alone, and for the rest of the day it was as if I was walking on air. I felt free.

Isn’t that how we always want our kids to feel? Free from the big emotions that, if left unattended, tend to grow.

Allowing my kids to cry for more than a bruised knee is hard for me. I realize that it also goes against our parent’s generation of teachings to “Suck it up” or “ Just put your big girl pants on.” But since that morning in the bathroom, I have been going against my own defaults to quiet my children’s emotions and listen instead.  I’m offering them open and waiting arms instead of rushing them from the room.

It’s not easy. Sometimes I am gritting my teeth, and biting my tongue. But I can see how this small change in my attitude has been SO beneficial to them.

I’ve realized that my children just want to be heard. They just want us to look into their eyes and say, “ I am sorry.” Or, “I understand.” Letting them cry allows them to release all those pent up BIG feelings and frustration and move past the current situation feeling validated and understood. By listening to them, I am also able to evaluate the situation better, and offer teachable lessons or perspective. It also lets them know that their feelings matter. That even the tiny, seemingly unimportant aspects of their life hold value to us. Hopefully by letting them cry today, they will be willing to trust us later with the bigger issues in life.

Or if anything at all, at least they will know that they are loved.

10 COMMENTS

  1. everything about this, is ME! I do the same thing with my 3 year old and the other day she was running around the kitchen and she banged her head on the table. I watched her and she grabbed her head and ran to her room. I said, “baby did that hurt?” and she yelled yes and started crying in her room. I felt so bad that she tried to tuck that away cause we don’t want her crying all the time. It broke my heart. I had her come to me so we could sit and I could console her. I knew in that moment that I needed to start letting her release these emotions, whether it be in pain, frustration or anything else. It seems silly to me but it’s a big deal to her and that should mean something! Thank you for writing this! Sometimes I feel alone in my quest to be a better parent and it’s good to know that I’m not!

  2. I understand and agree with you, other day I thought about this, my kids crying, and I used to tell them to stop crying, but then I remembered my mom never let me cry when I was a kid, and I grow up kind of holding my emotions. I never saw my mom crying, never even when I was young. First time I saw her crying was at my grandpa’s (her father) funeral. Today, I am a very much cry baby, I cry a lot watching TV or reading a book, I cry in front of my kids, but with my mom, is very hard for me to let my emotions go. I am ashamed to cry (for whatever reason) in from of my mom, or demonstrate any emotion at all, and i do not want this to happen to my kids. I have to watch myself when they cry and try to control myself. Now when they cry, i talk, and try to find why are they crying? 2 minutes of talking is enough crying most of the time, and they go back, ready for another episode. Im sure is much more comforting for them, and for me, having mommy’s attention.Thank you for sharing your experience! 😉

  3. This is a great post to read both as a mom and a therapist working on reltationships with couples.
    Typically, the couples I see often come in complaining that they don’t communitcate well; in reallity it’s usually one individuall who doesn’t communitcate well. The reason? Fear of conflict. The person’s belief is that if I show or tell how I feel there will be a fight, therefore I must avoid it at all costs. Ther result is that couples cannot get to the heart of the matter.
    I’m going to post this on my facebook to show how a “conscious mom” such as yourself can start teaching that invaluabe emotional intelligence by looking at themselves and their beliefs about conflict.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Love this article, had to share on my social media to get the word out. It is so incredibly important to help kids learn to identify their emotions and express themselves. My husband was told his whole life not to cry or express sadness. To this day he has major issues with his ability to react to things that it even hurts him as a grown man that he can’t understand himself. Great article!!

  5. What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing. It resonated with me because it it exactly the kind of thing I will be teaching in the Twin Cities as soon as I become certified to teach it! Your article gives me hope that there will be people in the Twin Cities who will be receptive to this kind of information. I am so incredibly passionate about this idea of expressing / releasing emotions, I feel it is the key to changing the world in the most profound way. I have a similar article about this: http://mylifepie.tumblr.com Thanks again for helping to spread the word!!

  6. I too was raised with the ‘don’t cry’ or the ‘why are you crying, I’ll give you something to cry about’ methods. I never understood it as a child, but by tamping down those emotions as a child, they come out now as an adult with depression, anxiety, and a few other issues. I knew that I would be breaking that cycle with my daughter, and have found ‘Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids’ by Laura Markham to be an excellent resource. It has also helped me realize that when I have a physical reaction (anger usually) to something my child does, it’s b/c I’m reacting to how I was treated. Since having my daughter, and learning to treat her with empathy and validation, I have learned to treat myself with empathy and validation too. It has made me a better mom, better friend, and better person. Slowly I am learning to own my feelings, and not be overwhelmed by them.

  7. There is also a physical release of stress hormones and toxins. This is a great article regarding the benefits of crying-http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judith-orloff-md/emotional-wellness_b_653754.html .

  8. I try so hard to let my nearly five yo son cry when he needs to. But he seems to not just cry, but SCREAM over every little thing!!! We normally say “It’s fine to cry but that screaming has to end. Otherwise go to your room.” My theory with parenting has always been “Is this something I’ll continue to tell them when they’re 40?” If so, then I feel it’s worth stressing. Yes, you have to wear pants outside of the house. No, you cannot ride the dog. If someone says they don’t want a hug, back off. And you can cry all you want, but opening your mouth as wide as possible and screaming into someone’s face is inappropriate. I guess I feel like there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to express your emotions. I let the screaming go when he was younger, assuming it was just a passing phase. But now it’s become a habit and he needs to redirect it in a more appropriate manner.

  9. What a great example of letting kids learn about emotions by learning about their feelings — the good and the bad. By acknowledging their pain — and giving them names for that feeling they’re having — they are seeing empathy in action. And since what we model is what they learn (show more than tell), they are learning lessons in empathy as well. Kudos to this mom for sharing this story!

    For those who want more resources on lessons in kindness, empathy, and all kinds of feelings, please visit our nonprofit’s website.

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