24.5.07

Let them cry.

We have no TV. Well we have a TV, but we don't "get" tv. Get it? The satellite man (which sounds more exciting than it is) came to the door today. He wanted to offer us a cheaper option than cable. I stood there with Finnegan (who is currently known as "electric boogaloo") on my hip and told him we didn't have cable. He stood there for a second. "You don't have ANYTHING?" Nope. "Not even with the little one?" I was nice. But seriously. He's ten months old.

Now I'm not going to pretend that we don't watch movies around here. In fact, Violet has a pretty nasty addiction we're attempting to conquer. And by addiction, I mean if she gets hurt, or is generally upset, rather than crying and dealing with her emotions, she wants a movie. So we're working on getting her crying. Sounds kind of strange, I know. But it's what she needs. Don't worry, I'm not pinching her or anything to get her started.

It's just based on the general idea that if you have an emotional upset that you don't deal with (by releasing those emotions through crying or raging) those emotions don't go away. I think people often have this idea that kids have it easy. That crying is a manipulation. That they're not really feeling the emotions they obviously are. Kids feel things intensely. More intensely than you or I. They don't conjure up tears to get what they want. They genuinely feel hurt, confused, disappointed. Any number of things.

We tend to see the emotions of children as pretty one-dimensional. If a child is hurt or frightened and really letting loose, I hear people all the time say things like "Oh, he's MAD!" No he isn't. He's hurt. If you fell down and hit your head and were crying, and I said "Man, you're MAD!", wouldn't you feel a little insulted. Either that, or the pull the old "Oh, you're OK!" No. No, I'm not. I'm hurt. Dumbass. But by cajoling them into ignoring those feelings, we're doing them no favors.

I once saw a little girl trip and fall into a cement drainage ditch. She was holding a pail, and fell with her throat on the pail. Her mother scooped her up. She was terrified, had the wind knocked out of her, and then started making a noise I'll never forget. It sounded a little like a seal barking. So the neighbor starts talking about her fricking shoes. "OOOHHH. I like your shoes. Look how pretty your shoes are!" I wanted to take the shoe and stick it in her mouth. Just ignore your feelings! They'll go away.
Now, don't for a minute think I'm advocating "crying it out" in the sense that you put a baby in a cage in a dark room and teach them to have a really really healthy relationship with sleep and darkness by screaming themselves to sleep. Or say, hey if you want to cry, cry, I'm leaving. I'm talking about holding a crying child and helping them release pent up emotions.


I've found a little bit of freedom in the ideas that kids need to cry, just like adults. It does two things. I realize that 1) It is not my fault that she is crying. I have not failed as a parent, because my child is upset. and 2) I don't have to fix it. I hold her. I tell her it's ok to cry when she needs to. I had found myself getting angry when Violet would get upset. This has really changed that. I help her sort through her emotions. I'm patient. I hold her or sit with her. She gets her "sads out". And we go on with our day. Rather than trying to do a song and dance all day while nothing makes her happy, the mood has passed, and been dealt with.

8 rubber neckers:

Amy said...

THIS IS AWESOME. Thank you for posting this. Really, thank you.

Usually when Hailey falls and cries or does whatever, and cries, I tell her to "shake it off". I comfort her but I try to make her, "us" look tough in front of people. I'm done. If my baby wants to cry it out, she's more than welcome to, right on MY shoulder. I don't give a damn what anyone says. We'll just walk away from them.

sweetviolet said...

Once we can stop parenting for other people, and parent for our children, I think we'll change the world!

fat little pug said...

It's just SO sad about the beautiful shell. :(

sweetviolet said...

your beautiful shell is broken. you're funnee!

Ann Marie said...

I've always been extremely emotional, and hayden is a very sensitive soul like her mum. It frustrates me MORE THAN ANYTHING (when certain people think)that it is ok for hayden to cry but if Elliott cries....well, you know, boys aren't SUPPOSED to cry!!!

sweetviolet said...

oh fiddlesticks! we wonder why men are more violent, have more stress-induced disease, and die younger. we have such ridiculous expectations of boys in this culture. raising boys who cry when they need to will go a long way toward raising boys who are actually in touch with their emotions. ok, so let me recommend the book to anyone who is interested. the author is aletha soulter. the books are 1) the aware baby 2) tears and tantrums and 3) helping young children flourish. they're all quick reads.

ChiroMum said...

Hey, I'm so glad to read this after our conversation the other night! I'm heading to Books a Million today to check out Soulter and if I'm as impressed as you have been, I'm picking up a couple of copies for my sister too! This is a GREAT post, by the way..."Once we can stop parenting for other people, and parent for our children, I think we'll change the world!' I'm using that one....

sweetviolet said...

I'm reading the Aware Baby right now. It's got great ideas on providing autonomy for babies. I'm still having a hard time with the crying for bitty babies, but it's definitely a good read. There is a lot of repeated information in the 3 books though. FYI, I had to order mine. I dont know if BAM is going to have them. The'll probably have one of her books called "Raising Drug Free Kids".

 

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