My boys cry. Not that much of a big deal, maybe. Except that for a long time I tried to make it stop. At times, I down right didn’t allow it.
It’s not nice to admit but it was the effect it sometimes had on me. Physically. Some crying used to pierce my ears, like it was on a frequency that set me on edge. My heart rate would increase, I’d begin to feel hot, and anger would bubble up from nowhere. I couldn’t stay calm. I was triggered. I have worked hard to be able to listen to certain types of crying.
For me some kinds of crying were, and still are easier to listen to. Heart-broken sadness is a doddle. Crying from pain took time for me to get used to but is now (once I know the injury doesn’t require A&E) something I can really hunker down into.
Crying with anger, frustration, disappointment, or failure? Well, I listen with as much openness as I can muster on the day, knowing it’s doing good, but I listen also knowing it can still trigger me. So, I try to finish listening before I’m no longer at ease. If my child hasn’t finished with that hurt, it’ll come up again, and I can do the rest of the good work another time, when I’m better resourced.
I think I might have been worried about raising boys that weren’t strong, not resilient and independent. That they needed toughening up. But, I don’t think I really thought that. I did think others would judge me if my child was crying, especially in anger. I did think a crying child was a child that needs to be fixed. In my mind the quicker a child stopped crying the quicker they were happy. The better parent that made me. Well, it made sense to me at the time.
But also, I know, now, I was being triggered.
Generations before me; parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, friends’ parents, (the list goes on) also believed that a crying child should be stopped as soon as physically possible. That message is taught pretty quick to a child. They need to stop crying. That child grows to have their own children and when their child cries, they know what to do. Make it stop crying.
This afternoon whilst hurtling down a muddy hill my son skidded and fell off his bike. I do my best to resist asking him to slow down, to be careful. Because he LOVES riding fast, and he’s really good at it too. It builds his confidence to experience knowing and feeling he’s good at something. Even when he falls off.
Today he cried, he cried hard and ran to me.
This can be a very bad sign as we have occasionally ended up in A&E, although ironically, never when he’s been doing something that risky. Once I spotted that there was no blood trickling, or huge, black bruise emerging, I was able to just go all out, connecting, grounding, and being there with him whilst he went through whatever he was going through. I can guess, cos I’m his mum, that he panicked that he’d seriously hurt himself and would require A&E, (like I said we’ve been there, bought the T-shirt) that he’d scared himself in that infinitesimal moment of skidding and falling that he was going to hurt himself, and also that it did actually really hurt. I don’t know, because I didn’t ask any questions.
I just listening, murmured a bit, “ooohh-ed” and “ouched” a bit, assured him (with very few words) that I wasn’t scared/worried but that I was right there. I watched his eyes, made sure he could see mine were calm and caring, and open to him carrying on as long as he needed.
At Hand in Hand Parenting this is called Stay Listening. It can be as simple as listening to a child until they have finished showing us how their emotions feel for them right then. It’s listening without trying to distract them from what’s bothering them, or judging whether the feelings should, in fact, be felt. It’s holding that, by just being with the child whilst their feelings are in full swing, the child is doing what comes naturally and instinctively. That by finding a safe place, with a connected adult to ground them and keep them safe, whilst they are feeling so deeply, the emotion can been allowed to complete. The result is that the child’s mind can reset, their sense of connection to you grows, they can think well again and carry on, unencumbered, with living, learning, loving and feeling themselves again.
Once my son could focus on me again, he told me a bit “The tyre skidded… it hurts on my forehead… I was trying to turn the corner too quick”. I listened, and resisted teaching him anything with my words of mum-wisdom, just listened and let him piece the story together.
I then listened some more, checked in with how it was feeling now and then he blew me away.
“I’m going to try that again straight away, so I can build my courage up again.”
Not weak, not a cry baby.
A resilient, courageous, smart boy. Who I can trust will grow up to be a resilient, courageous, smart man.
For more on how crying can help you and your child here’s an article from Hand in Hand Parenting
If you would like to learn more about the Hand in Hand tools and how to implement them with your family why not join me for my next Hand in Hand Parenting Starter Class.
6 Weeks of classes starting 9th November 10am OR 8pm