By Guest Blogger Laura Simon
I was frantically trying on clearance shoes in TJ Maxx, desperate for something to wear in an upcoming family photo shoot. My daughter, newly two, started to wail from her seat in the cart. “Boots, mama! I ant boots! Boots are miiiiiiiine!” What is with this child and boots? I rushed to make up my mind before things got really ugly.
An elderly woman approached the cart, smiled at my daughter, and said, “Oh precious, if your mommy would just let you hold the boots, you wouldn’t have to cry.”
I bit my tongue, but really? I can certainly understand being annoyed by a crying child, but she didn’t seem as bothered by the crying as she was that I wasn’t giving my daughter her way.
I know a thing or two about crying. Seriously, sometimes it feels like someone in my house is always in tears. And aside from the impact on my sanity, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. As a sort of personal experiment, I decided to make a list of all the reasons my kids cried in a given day.
Caleb (age 5) was up first, as always. At 7:01 am, he appeared in my room, crying because he was so hungry he couldn’t walk. He was standing up after walking from his room to my room, but apparently that was all he could do. His wails got louder when I said I’d gone on a long run the day before and my legs were in no condition to carry all 43 pounds of him down sixteen steps. Strangely, he discovered his hollow legs could walk after all.
At 7:10 am, Violet (age 2) cried because I said she couldn’t have Halloween candy for breakfast. Crying intensified at 7:12 when I set her down because I need two hands to crack an egg. At 7:18, the volume increased because she could see her eggs on her plate, but her mean mommy wasn’t giving them to her. At 7:20, she broke into screams because the eggs she got were too hot and burned her mouth.
7:41 found Caleb sobbing on the floor because he couldn’t put Lego Iron Man’s head back on. Seems to me that Lego Iron Man is the one who should have been crying, but maybe you can’t cry with a severed head.
And by 7:45, Violet was crying again, this time because big brother Eli got Cheerios for breakfast, and she wanted them too. She simply couldn’t deal with the fact that I wouldn’t give her more breakfast until she finished what was on her plate.
At 8:02, Eli (age 6) burst into tears because Caleb was trying to take his stuffed Froggy. Caleb started screaming because Eli wouldn’t share. I reminded them that “your brother is more important than a toy” and put the toy in time-out. This left both boys sobbing, and Froggy just seemed relieved.
At 8:42, Caleb started crying again, this time because I wouldn’t let him play on his tablet. We only allow the kids to use the tablet once a week, on Friday afternoons. It was Wednesday. I am the meanest mommy ever, apparently. While he was storming out of the room, he stubbed his toe on the train track he’d gotten out and failed put away. His hysterics alone merited a trip to the hospital, but instead I kissed the toe and assured him that I could commiserate because I’d done the exact same thing about a million times. Before I could say, “Maybe next time you’ll remember to pick them up,” Violet pretended to stub her own toe, discovered that even intentional stubbed toes hurt, and joined her brother in tears. Because that’s just what I needed…more crying.
And at 9:02, Eli joined the crying club, this time because he wanted to play trains instead of going over his math flashcards. Never mind that memorizing his addition and subtraction facts have made math super fun for him; at 9am, those flashcards are cruel and unusual punishment.
Like everything else I start in this season of life, I abandoned the project by 10am, but you get the idea. Maybe you’ve been there.
I really hate crying, especially the whiny, angry crying that comes with having multiple kids who (sometimes) fight. Before I had kids, I thought that people with crying kids must be terrible parents. I was kind of an idiot, obviously.
Now that I’m a mom, I get that the crying game is a part of this stage in life. My kids cry when they want something, when they aren’t getting what they want, when they’re being asked to do something they don’t want to do, when they’re frustrated, when they’re tired, and when they’re hurt.
Yes, I could totally prevent a lot of the crying…by giving them everything they want, by refusing to let them take risks, by preventing them from figuring things out themselves, by ignoring their misbehavior… by creating a fictional world that will leave them ill-prepared for real life. I just can’t see that doing them any good in the long run.
Please don’t think I’m just letting my kids cry it out in a dark corner somewhere. I’m there to parent them through it. Sometimes that means letting them know that they can’t out-cry my resolve, and sometimes that means scooping them up and kissing a boo-boo. Sometimes I have to let them get the tears out of their systems so I can reason with them. And sometimes, when I’ve had enough and it is nowhere near time for wine or chocolate, I cry with them. I’ve found it is remarkably therapeutic.
So mamas, if you are in this stage of life with me, give yourself some grace. The crying game is maddening, but it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. In fact, it just might mean you’re solidly on the right track. Buy yourself some ear plugs and a gallon of ice cream. You’ve got this.
Tell me, mamas, how do you deal with the crying game? And parents of big kids, what wisdom can you offer those of us with little ones?