Been thinking about this lately. My son cries. He cries when he’s frustrated (as do I). He cries when his feelings have been hurt. He cries when he’s embarrassed. He doesn’t often cry when he is injured, but sometimes. Usually only for big injuries – the tears that accompany small injuries are usually tears of embarrassment.
The first time I really remember realizing this about him, he was probably 4. We went to a story time at the library – the first story time we’d been to since our string of story time failures when he was 2 and 3. (um, he was active to the point of distracting the other kids.)
It was some sort of special story time, about nutrition, or how important fluoride and vaccines are, something I remember not realizing was the topic until it was far too late. The presenter was handing out some sort of take-home for the kids, but she didn’t bring enough. At that age, Wally was really pretty shy (and he still really is in a room of strangers) and he hung back, not wanting to walk up to the front with the other kids all bunched up yelling me! me! me! So he missed out. And he started to cry. We went out in the hallway for a minute, but he honestly could not pull it together, so we ended up just heading home. I think he cried for a good 30 minutes over that.
And I remember not having the slightest idea what to do. I mean, I was sympathetic, but after a certain point… for the love of Pete, child, it was just an eraser or something to that effect.
But he was struggling with dealing with all the people, and then he was frustrated with himself for not being able to just walk up with the other kids, and he was disappointed and angry that he missed out. Big feelings.
And now he is 7. He is more reluctant to let others see him cry now, but his eyes well up sometimes in public when he’s embarrassed or frustrated. More than one playdate has had episodes of tears over feeling left out (though that happens less and less as we’ve worked with him on coping skills, and also, unfortunately, as he becomes better at snotty comebacks and ridiculous ultimatums).
And I’m OK with that. I know our society has a big thing against boys crying, or against anyone crying “too much,” or whatever, but… first, he’s still just a little kid. And second, you know, it’s OK to cry. Crying often helps you get over that hump of dealing with big emotions and lets you see things a little more reasonably on the other side. That’s a good thing.