"It is some relief to weep; grief is satisfied and carried off by tears." - Ovid

June 25, 2008

My son saw me cry for the first time ever last night. Sitting on the floor of his room, as I was talking with his father about a current disappointment and a small frustration I just burst into tears. E was perplexed, to say the least, and walked over and solemnly patted my leg. His father tried to encourage him to say "its ok, mamma" but he wouldn't speak - just stared up at me for a long moment with is big blue eyes, then handed me a plastic knight and held up his own, ready to fight.

I recovered quickly, then fought as required. Later, we read books and sang our goodnight songs and struggled over tooth brushing and snuggled and slept. As I cuddled my son as he made that final transition between sleepy and sleeping, I thought about the first time I saw my mother cry (that I remember).

The first time I saw my mother cry was when I was 27, and my Grandmother -- my mother's mother, the woman who was my primary caregiver for most of my childhood -- passed away. My mother (a solid, capable midwestern woman) had been a rock through her mother's final illness, through telling my Grandfather that his wife had died, through the funeral planning, only to break down weeping in the parking lot just before she started the car. I was taken aback, but also understood that she'd been trying to hold it together as much for me as for herself, and, after all, crying when your mother dies is normal and fully expected. Still, it was a momentary shock, simply because I'd never seen it before. Through her struggles during my childhood and our struggles as mother and daughter during my teen and college years, if she'd cried she always did it in private.

A good friend recently said to me "I hope [your son] doesn't have to know how hard you work to make his life as good as it is". I appreciate the sentiment, but its not something it would ever occur to me to hide from him. Its important to me that he understand that life is not easy or handed to you. I also think its important that he understand that Mamma and Daddy are people just like him, and that we cry and hurt and laugh and dance just as he does.

On the other hand, I'd sort of hoped the first tears he would see from me were tears of joy, not tears of anger and frustration. His job as a son is not to comfort me, although his presence provides much comfort. Our job as a family is to provide support for each other through highs and lows. Being open about our emotions - teaching him that all feelings are ok even as I strive to make sure that I'm not overwhelming him with things he can't possibly process - is just another in the long series of balancing acts that no book or parenting magazine can prepare you for.


Aurelia said...

I knew how hard my parents had to work for what we had. I knew, going in, that life was not all sunshine and chocolate, and it made the transistion into "functioning adult memeber of society" that much easier.

Kids who don't realize that life is work can get paralyzed when they find it out. And they will. You are doing your child no favors if you try and hide that.

All that aside, E trying to cheer you up by playing is adorable.