Last night, watching the U.S. election returns, it was hard not to let a few tears slip as I tapped into the incredible emotions playing out all over the country. My mind went back to when I was a kid, in a similar situation, and it hit me that I never saw my parents cry.
Is that weird? Unusual? I’m betting it isn’t. Sure, my parents grew up, as many did, as part of the Stoic Generation, but I think there’s something bigger going on: parents are afraid to look vulnerable in front of their kids. Is this you?
I think it’s pretty common, actually. Parents are supposed to be the boss. Parents are supposed to be strong. Parents are supposed to look like they know what they’re doing. And collapsing in a puddle of tears just isn’t part of that.
What are you losing by staying strong in front of your kids? Realness. We all cry. Sometimes it’s in response to frustration, or grief, or just being heart-touched in a moment. All of these are real responses that we all feel at times, and it helps kids by knowing that their own natural responses in times of stress are welcome.
But it’s hard. Even though I know it’s good for my kids to see my emotions, I still have a hard time being totally vulnerable in front of them. It seems wrong somehow. Weak. Giving them the wrong idea. I want them to feel safe and secure in their world and know they have a parent who can take care of important stuff in their lives.
I could make up a chart of The Appropriate Times To Cry:
- Watching Hallmark commercials: check
- Election returns: check
- Someone dies: definite check
- Dropped a large pot on my toe: check (also maybe swearing, but that’s another post)
The problem with the chart is that it doesn’t cover every possible situation. Nothing can. I’m back to looking to find a balance in my approach, which, hello, sort of seems to be the all-encompassing cop-out. And then it also sort of makes sense. We can’t always know how we’re going to react in a situation, nor can we know the ultimate effect our reaction might have on our kids.
We can only do the best we can.
What about you? How do you feel about crying in front of your kids?