I’m a strong woman. I can handle a lot. I’m not afraid to cry, but admittedly it’s usually behind closed doors. The one person I’m not afraid to cry in front of: my husband. He’s probably the only person I will let myself break down in front of. Everybody else – my closest friends, family, even my parents – I manage to fight back tears in tough situations. I can’t explain it. I’ve always been the calm, level headed person that gets others through tough situations. I also work in HR. So by default, my profession requires me to put aside my personal emotions and approach situations with a clear conscious.
Recently I experienced a life situation that brought out many emotions and I shed a whole lot of tears. Some happy, but many sad. I tried to maintain my composure, especially in front of my kids, but there were several moments where I couldn’t hold back. I felt really bad crying in front of my son in particular. He’s 4 years old and is understanding more and more about the world. I always explain my emotions and so he knows what happy tears are (usually prompted by him singing along to a country song on the radio), but I’ve been torn with explaining my sad tears to him. I have gone back and forth whether or not I should let him see me this way.
But at the end of the day, his strong “I don’t cry in front of others” mommy has feelings and it’s okay. A friend and I had a conversation about this exact same topic. Her little girl said “Mommy, you aren’t supposed to cry,” and she responded that it too was okay to cry. She’s exactly right.
It’s okay to have emotions. Most importantly, it’s okay to show your emotions.
At a recent pre-school conference, his teacher confirmed exactly what I had known to be true. My son has a strong sense of self, but also a sensitive side that “gets” what is going on. As a parent, this was the first time hearing someone else talk about my child and it brought tears to my eyes. We have such a huge responsibility as parents and sometimes requires a lot of explaining. Several “let’s talk” conversations and family meetings to discuss what’s going on. I believe it’s really important for kids to feel comfortable talking about how they feel. They need to feel safe. They have to know its okay to feel a certain way. They have to know that it’ll pass, but in the moment – it’s okay to feel sad or upset. After all the books we read, shows he watches and in school he’s learning about emotions… so why should I suppress mine? It’s a fact of life and I’m not afraid to hide it from my kids.
The last several weeks have been tough, but kids learn by watching our actions and what we don’t say, so it’s important to be honest. Life isn’t always the way we planned and I’d rather prepare them to handle the unexpected than be blindsided and not know how to manage tough situations. Whether it’s a personal situation or something on the news… it’s okay to be sad. It’s OKAY to feel and to show your emotions in front of your child. They’ll be stronger for it. For me, it’s a moment in time that will pass and soon we’ll get back to our giggly, carefree selves.