I wish I had done it sooner.
A few months ago, when my eyes were watering while chopping onions, my 6-year-old asked me if I had ever cried. I replied yes, quickly changed the subject to a lighter subject, and went on to dinner.
The truth is crying and I have a complicated story. While I Raised in a loving, supportive family, we don’t really share our emotions. I became the type of person who suppressed my tears or just cried when he was alone. It’s not that I was told that I couldn’t cry, but that something inside of me told me that sad feelings shouldn’t be shown. Fury? No problem. But sadness should be kept to ourselves.
This reluctance to openly share my feelings continued into adulthood. When my husband called me from SickKids Hospital a few years ago and told me that my five-year-old would be discharged in time for Christmas, but instead the antibiotics for his perforated appendix were not working, he now had to have an operation and he would probably be in for Christmas To be in the hospital – I didn’t cry. When my mother put her hand on my shoulder, instead of hugging myself, I swallowed the lump in my throat and walked away.
I never thought hiding my feelings would be a problem until this year after feeling completely burned out and scared virtual training, entertain our children all the time since they couldn’t see their friends and my husbandBand and I tried to juggle everything, I turned to therapy for myself and my elders to cope better with it.
My son’s first virtual therapy session, he was asked to describe what it feels like when he’s happy and what it feels like to be angry. His answer? “I feel the same for both of them.” I was shocked. How could he not tell the difference? Anger and happiness are polar opposites. As a mother, how could I fail so badly that my son couldn’t describe his feelings?
This led to my calling my therapist who was told that I was not getting any better. I was great in saying what anger and happiness are, but I couldn’t describe how they made me Feeling.
I also learned that anger is a secondary emotion, which means that we use it to cover up what we are really feeling inside. Anger feels less vulnerable because it is so widely accepted. It was a lightbulb moment. I was piling up so much that anger was all I had. Anger was my coping mechanism.
I realized that I needed to better identify and name my feelings, especially if I wanted to set an example for my children.
Then, at the end of the last week of summer, I got my chance. My kids had a tough week at day camp, partly due to minimal social contact in the summer and partly due to some challenges my kids got into social settings. They didn’t like being in a structured environment againt got bored and started causing trouble with people they didn’t know. On the penultimate day, their counselor insisted that the boys stay home the next day. I was shocked. She shared some incidents that had happened at camp that week, incidents that I was unaware of until that moment, and while I did not condone her behavior, I was not okay with the way the feedback was received was given, and in a public setting, no less. She also told me that “nobody liked my kids” and it felt like a punch in the stomach.
I felt embarrassed, ashamed, angry, and sad.
I put my boys in the car and asked them not to say a word. And then I cried all the way home and went straight to my room. The warehouse manager called me and instead of avoiding the call because I was crying,swam. We talked for 20 minutes, all between my sobs.
Instead of feeding my embarrassment, she provided me with compassion. She listened to me and made me cry. She sympathized with me as a fellow mom how hard life is especially with our children. She also reassured me that my boys are not the only children who are causing trouble and that someone should have made them aware of my sons’ behavior earlier so that we could have dealt with it. I felt heard and understood.
I stopped feeling lighter and went downstairs. I told my boys that while their behavior was wrong and there would be consequences, I wanted to tell them why I was crying.
I said I cried because someone made me feel. After a tough year and a half due to COVID, I felt like one with this person terrible parents. I also cried because I felt down, that people would no longer have compassion for children if they tried to adapt to the social world, and that for some children, social skills are not that easy. That I disagreed with how one of the advisors was handling the situation.
How did my boys react?
They hugged me and told me I was the best mom ever. They apologized for their behavior and sat and cuddled with me. You got mad at the person who made me cry. They also understood that their behavior was wrong and said they’d better finish the camp.
AAnd they did.
As someone who has never cried in front of people, I have now learned that not only is it exhausting to suppress our emotions, but it also teaches our children to do the same. I have also entered a completely new room with my sons, where they now come to me and open up their feelings, something that I hope will continue as you grow. I keep doing therapy for myself and my son and I want them to know that it’s never something to be ashamed of. We all need a little help at times.
So while I waited until my boys were 6 and 8 years old to cry in front of them, I did and will continue to do it anyway. Crying is vulnerable, but I now know it’s important to teach our children what emotions are and how they feel. Something I keep working on every day.