Tuesday, March 22, 2011

ON FAMILY ~ The Lesson of Tears...

Image courtesy Deanna Wardin via Flickr

At the age of 45, writer Regina Brett wrote a column for the Cleveland Plain Dealer listing 45 lessons that life had taught her thus far. As a breast cancer survivor, many of those lessons were learned the hard way. Five years later she added five more lessons rounding her list up to 50 and turned her popular list into a book called God Never Blinks. I found her list to be entertaining, inspiring and thought provoking. I thought I would go through each of her lessons learned and write about how that lesson has or has not come up in my own life, now that I am 40 and feel old enough to have finally learned something.

"It's OK to let your children see you cry."
~ LESSON #12

Well, I don't have any kids to see me cry so I haven't had an opportunity to test out this lesson myself yet. But I have been a kid with parents. And though it has been extremely rare, I have seen them cry.

Part of the reason parental tears were rarely witnessed in my childhood was probably because most of them were shed in frustration with ME long before I was old enough to remember anything. I know that I was a baby who cried all day long and drove my poor young mother insane. I'm sure she cried along with me many an afternoon. My brother seemed to be a cakewalk after me I'm sure. I remember him being a happy kid so there were lots of smiles in exchange.

Another reason may have been that my family was relatively happy. Or at least that is how I always felt. The only time I remember my parents arguing openly was whenever we would move into a new home and there was wallpapering to be done. My brother and I learned to disappear outside for the day when the wallpaper supplies came out. Mom would yell at Dad for doing it all wrong. Dad would snap back at Mom to just do it all herself if she was such an expert. Blah blah blah. But usually it was a peaceful home, regardless of where it was located.

But I think the main reason I rarely saw tears was that my Mom is a pretty private person. I think she likes to keep her emotions in check and her guard up. She is a strong, independent woman who doesn't have patience for people who aren't. It takes a lot to rattle her outwardly. So when her parents were sick and in the hospital I knew it was major when the tears rolled down her cheeks.

I was probably about 10 years old. We were on a family vacation at the beach with my Dad's clan and my parents spent much of the time on the other side of the state checking in on her parents who had been hospitalized with varying levels of health decline unexpectedly. As the baby of her family and living far away from them it was very tough for her. But I didn't know how serious things were until I saw her tears well up when they returned to the family vacation.

I didn't think she was weak. And it didn't scare me. It made me see that my Mom had a great capacity for love. And that her heart was breaking. I wasn't jealous. It made me realize that they weren't just my Grandparents. They were her Mom & Dad. And at one point she had been their little girl.

I recall that moment of realization very clearly. And to think that my Mom had a life before me was pretty fascinating. Who would have thought that I wasn't the center of the world? I tried not to be a burden to her that day and give her space. I knew. After all, if something bad ever happened to her, I was certain I'd cry too.

Tears reflect tenderness to me. Not weakness. And I felt a stronger bond to my family having seen them capable of the same emotions that I felt. So I think crying in front of kids is OK. Wallpapering in front of kids is not.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I prefer my kids to feel that they can count on me to be strong, but they definitely have seen me cry (like every day for the last two weeks). I cry infrequently enough though, that when I do, they sit up and take notice. I think it is important to be able to express yourself. Not permitting yourself to cry is just asking for an ulcer.

Ann Summerville said...

I love the last part. Yes, wallpapering is best as a solitary affair.

McGillicutty said...

I saw my mother cry a lot and when my girls cry they look like her and it breaks my heart. I cry in front of my kids when I can explain why I'm crying, some of the more complicated stuff I cry about behind closed doors, but will let them in on when they're ready. i love this post... especially the last sentence!

Lynn said...

"Wallpapering in front of the kids is not" -- ha! Great line, Molly :)

Janet said...

I can remember my Mom crying from time to time...but never my Dad.

Kathleen said...

My son has definitely seen my cry and since it is a rare occasion, he definitely sits up and takes notice. It isn't really natural to me to never cry nor is it natural to cry all the time!

soleil said...

I remember seeing my mom cry. I don't remember thinking anything of it.

Anonymous said...

I wrote a very nice and lengthy comment but it didn't go through. Now I'm too frustrated to come up with the right words. Just know I loved the post :)

kayerj said...

I had a similar experience with my dad when my grandparents died (on the same day an hour apart, both of heart attacks) only they were my mother's parents. I was so touched that he cried at their passing.

Now me--I cry over everything. My kids wish I would stop.

Susan said...

First off, wallpapering with one's spouse can be legal grounds for divorce, just sayin'.

My kids have seen my cry plenty. There has been a lot to cry about. The other day I bawled my eyes out watching this:


Tears wash away sadness and provide emotional release. They're a good thing.