"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Come on mom, get tough.

I have very, very few pictures of my children crying. Mainly because 1)I don't really want to dwell on their - or anyone's - moments of sadness, and 2) I know I wouldn't like it if someone was taking pictures of me when I was crying. It just doesn't seem nice to me.

The picture above was captured by accident, not too long ago, when I was testing out the camera. She was over-tired and rapidly vacillating in between moments of frustration, and total glee. About five seconds later, she was laughing:

Today though, she was crying. Imagine the top picture, but with sound.

I had a bad day today. Tegan had a bad day today. Neither of us had as bad a day as Everett though, who is suffering through another - very painful - UTI (something he's been dealing with his entire life) We were all exhausted from a busy weekend and not enough sleep, and I'd thought that today was going to give us some much-needed down time. Instead the three of us were at the doctor's first thing this morning, at the grocery store buying cranberry juice, and at CVS filling Everett's prescription.

Tegan spotted the gum near the register on the way out of CVS. She asked if we could get some, and I had to tell her, "not this time." She asked why as she started to cry, and I could tell from the way that she'd rooted herself to the floor that we were not going to be making a graceful exit. I knelt down so I could talk to her, and I told her the truth.

"Because I only have a little bit of cash right now, and we need it for the field trip tomorrow."

"But I want gum." She cried harder.

That's about the time that I started to feel everyone staring at us. I think most moms know that feeling... that feeling of being watched, and judged, by all the other shoppers. That feeling of frustration, and even embarrassment... not because of your child, but just because everyone is looking at you. Waiting to see what you're going to do. Waiting to see how you'll handle it.

I handled it the only way I knew how, as calmly and quietly as I could. And when I picked her up - still crying - and made my way out to the car, I was followed by an older gentleman who offered,

"Come on mom, you need to get tough with her!"

I did not respond with the first thought that came to mind (for which I am proud) but instead gave him a wordless smile while I got the kids into the car.... one disappointed and unhappy, the other sick and in pain. I just wanted to get home, and get home soon.

Get tough with her? Even now, 7 hours later, I'm still thinking about it and shaking my head. Aside from the obvious irritation of the unsolicited advice, what does it even mean?

Get tough with her. For what? For being human? For being disappointed? For being tired? For acting like any other three year old who's allowed to express her emotions?

I can't say that I always respond to my crying children as patiently as I'd like. I can't say that I'm always as compassionate as I'd like. But I can say, with absolute certainty, that being more "tough" is the LAST thing I am going to do when one of my children is upset, when one of my children is sad, when one of my children is in pain in some way... Whether it's a pack of gum, or a canceled play date. Their feelings are real, just as real as yours and mine. They deserve to be treated kindly and gently all the time, but especially when they are unhappy.

Isn't that just common sense?

So, dear stranger in the CVS parking lot: I sincerely thank you for your nosy intrusion concern today, but I've got this one covered. And the next time my girl cries (which she will one day, because she's human) I will think of your words, and I will do the opposite.


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