Her tears come quickly. Out of nowhere. They usually burst forth right alongside loud words and a spastic body and a twisted up face.  For her, frustration must take many, many exits in its release.

They come every day, I think. Though there's probably been a tear-free day or two here and there, I honestly can't remember a day that didn't include them. Every frustration, every banged knee, every thwarted ambition has the potential to bring them out. Sometimes they are gone just as quickly as they appeared. Sometimes they linger like an oblivious, unwanted house guest.

And I am, as ever, caught between parenting ideals. I want her to be tough. To muster a steely strength that can keep her focused and calm as life throws her the inevitable speed bumps and road blocks. At the same time, I also want her to love and accept who she is, every single part of her, including her own darkness. I want her to feel safe and understood and deeply, deeply okay being just as she is. 

Even - especially - when "as she is" is extremely sensitive.

In pursuit of resiliency, I am sometimes heartless, answering a BANG! OW! WAHHHHHHHH! with nothing more than a raised eyebrow and a wordless pat on the head. I have been known to look down at her tearful face with weary resignation, as if to say: What is it this time? I have, on occasion, reminded her that when she screams and cries so often, over relatively tiny events, she is training me to ignore her yells.  Which means if something truly awful were to happen someday, much like the townspeople and the boy who cried wolf, I may not heed her call.

I'm okay with this approach most of the time. I like to imagine that my calm, impassive reaction reflects back to her that minor bumps and bruises are all in a day's work and not such a big deal after all. I don't know if it really does. I can only hope so.

But sometimes, when I look at her tear-streaked face - really look - I remember. I remember crying over anything and everything. I remember tears that came from nowhere and everywhere all at once.  I remember physical discomfort as being impossible to bear, emotional discomfort as nothing short of torture.

I remember being five and being completely and totally at the mercy of my own tear ducts. 

Those are the times that I engage with her, probably more than I should. I can't will myself to turn away from her pain.  I can't help but reach out to her.

To say: I know.  Let it out. 

And:  It's really, really okay. 


scatteredeverywhere said...

I have a sensitive one too...tears over big things and teeny tiny little things. Multiple times a day. It's exhausting. Sometimes the underlying issue is teething or a growth spurt that makes him more sensitive to everything. I was also sensitive as a child and had clothing sensory issues so while as frustrating as it is, I get it when he does that. But still it's so very exhausting. Now, where'd I put my vodka...

Ann Wyse said...

There's something so beautiful about this post.

I loved it.

Even though Noah is a little younger, I also find myself having amazing flash-back-style empathy with him for the last year or so.

Crazy - and you express the experience so well!

Pamela Hunt Cloyd said...

Oh wow. Do we have the same kid? I find that sometimes I get so troubled by my son's emotions because they are so like my own. I think we are given our children for a reason and I am finding the work to be unbearably hard and heartbreakingly beautiful at the same time.

twisterfish said...

Beautiful post. So touching and honest.
(P.S. That child of yours has a pretty awesome mamma.)

beyond diapers said...


Bronwen said...

I can totally relate. I don't mean to you, not yet, because we're not there yet. I mean to her. I've had a stressful week and I feel like I have been at the mercy of my own emotions. Knowing how hard I am to deal with when I'm like this, I understand your struggle. It is my sincere hope that Eloise takes after her calm, controlled father.

Rebecca said...

I have to tell you this came JUST at the right time for me! I wanted to call you immeidately when I read it (but then realized I didn't have your number :)

I have been agonizing lately over Renton's sensitivity. For the past few months he literally cries at least 2-3 times every, single day. Of course whenever anything seems slightly out of whack, I am quick to assume it's some deep seeded, long-lasting repercussion of the divorce. I started thinking lately that maybe I needed to get Renton back to a therapist. But seeing now that this is quite possibly just TYPICAL behavior (and yes, I do remember being emotional myself growing up), I have literally sighed a sigh of relief.

I think the most important part is that the crying seems to erupt from pretty much nothing (that phrase of yours totally hit home with me).

I am always conflicted on how to respond - ignore, guide, tell him to get over it already, just becuase emily looked at you for two seconds instead of one isn't something to cry about!

I've opted primarily for the ignoring, or the "Renton, it is okay to FEEL sad or upset or angry, but you are old enough now to start thinking about controlling how you ACT and REACT. It is not okay to act the way you are right now."

Ugh - tough stuff.

THANK YOU SOOOOOO much for posting this and for all the other great comments! So nice to know my kids are normal. :)

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