We all know that crying is a babys way of communicating. That it's our job as parents to decipher the code and meet the need..Whether the need is a clean diaper, comfort when afraid, or needing to be fed (and when in doubt whip it [the breast] out).
But what about when baby gets older? What about toddlers...children? I've been blessed with a daughter who has a lot of emotion. She feels things deeply- and more often than not loudly. It can be exhausting, embarrassing and some times down right annoying. Many many times we just want the tears to stop!!
I'm reading Playful Parenting by Larry Cohen Ph.D. I'm allllmost done with it, and I just finished reading a section about crying. I can't say how much this impacted me.
Here are some quotes that stood out to me...
"Tears are good. When we release grief and loss and sadness through crying, we generally feel much better, think more clearly, and recover. These benefits are especially true when we cry with someone who is caring and empathic. I have spent years trying to help adults in therapy, especially men, to cry so they could effectively heal from their traumas. Then I became a parent and I was surrounded by people trying desperately to get babies not to cry." (p. 223)
"In addition people seem to think that if you stop babies from crying you've actually stopped them from being sad or hurt. On the contrary, you've stopped their natural healing process, and the hurt just builds up inside. I like to think of crying as getting "un-sad." I know it ruins the metaphor, but a good cry actually fills children's cups, especially if they are being held and comforted." (p. 223)
He goes on to talk about meeting babies needs- like I said above: figure it out and meet the need.
I found this interesting, "But often babies cry just to express themselves, or to release their pent-up frustrations and tensions from the drama of all their new experiences." (p. 224)
He urges the reader to never leave a child alone to cry and also to ask the question: Are they happier and more connected after a good cry?
This part especially hit me hard.
""Is there a pattern in your family of teasing people or humiliating them for crying? Have they ever seen you cry? Have you tried staying with them, [the child who is crying] physically and emotionally, listening to them cry for as long as it takes to express themselves fully?" I also ask parents to recall their own history of crying as a child. "Did you have to cry alone in your pillow, or not cry at all, or were you lucky enough to have a friend or parent or caregiver who offered a shoulder?""(p. 225)
One more quote, "The term crybaby is an awful slur. It reinforces a very destructive idea that crying is bad, weak and immature. However, some children actually do cry a lot, for no apparent reason. Just because we don't know the reason, though, doesn't mean they don't have a good one. Emotions don't come from nowhere. It's presumptuous for us to decide when tears to be compassionate about and which ones to dismiss. Since we usually stop tears before they are done, some children get stuck in an endless loop of trying to express their feelings through tears, only to be stopped midway...."
This brought up some painful things for me. I can't count how many times I was teased for being a "crybaby"...Specifically by my siblings, it was a family joke that I was uber emotional. I remember many times crying into my pillow because I HAD to cry but didn't want any one to hear and make fun of me. I remember after a spanking I'd cry and scream and my parents (yes it probably was way over the top, I tend to be that way ). They would get angry at my "disrespect" and ask me if I wanted another spanking. That I better "dry up" or I'd be getting another one. I guess per Dobson you're supposed to spank the child and then comfort them and hug and hold them and reaffirm your love aftewards.
But after a spanking I didn't want to be hugged and held- from what I remember, I was hurt angry, enraged on a couple of occassions. I'd cry so hard I'd almost throw up. My parents viewed this as manipulative and got angrier at me and either left me alone or I know a couple times I got another spanking. My parents weren't ogres, they really were not big spankers at least compared to the other parents in the circles we were in. And they were pretty crunchy in a lot of other ways (homeschool, homebirth, all 5 kids breastfed, co-slept for at least the first few months etc.). They made mistakes. And those moments were a very small part of my childhood.
But they stand out so strongly in my mind - especially now that I'm a mother of an emotional toddler I feel those bad experiences so much stronger than I ever did. Before RJ was born I know I would have said' My parents spanked me, and I turned out okay"...Actually I'm pretty sure I DID say that on a few occassions. And I also know now that I'm grown and married and parenting my own children how deeply those spankings and interactions effected me. I can see how clearly they contributed to my being the emotionally constipated person I am today. A person now, trying to raise children in relationship. A relationship that will allow candid show of emotion- even loud and some what ugly emotion. A realtionship that will hopefully teach ME and my children how to express emotion in a healthy respectful way. NOT stuff it! Ask my husband I am the queen of stuffing it- untill I blow up that he took a wrong turn and cry for an hour over a stupid comment...Yup real healthy!
Read: "Children are often full of deep feelings that they can't get out. The real emotion is just too intense to handle. So they pick some little thing to get upset about, a pretext." (p 226)
All of this challenged me, especially at this point where RJ seems to cry over nothing so many hours of the week. Her big feelings are sometimes infuriating and exhausting - I don't know how to fix it and the sound is downright annoying (not to mention LOUD).
But I can choose to see the expression of feelings as obnoxious and over the top...Or I can embrace it, help her finish it out...And hopefully (please Lord!) guide her in experssing her feelings in a healthy way as she grows.
I should see the tears as an opportunity to connect