“I’ve never seen you cry before, mommy”
Those words from my six-year-old son struck a nerve when he saw me in tears in my rainy days back in March. I tell my boys that showing emotions and crying is acceptable no matter what society view as normal for boys/men. But for some reason, the fact that my son had never seen me cry amazed me. While going through my hard times, starting back in winter time; I’m pretty sure he felt something was up with ‘mommy’. But as the “warrior” I tried to be for my children, I seem to have forgotten my own experience; a child is able to sense when something is off track.
We’re born intuitive. That’s one of the characteristics that define us as human beings. Usually we can walk into a room and detect something’s wrong, or that there is tension. We’re not always able to pinpoint the bad but our intuition tells us there’s something going on. That gut feeling.
It’s no different with children. They may not understand most emotions or even have the vocabulary to explain or detect all emotions. Even as an adult, I can’t always comprehend yet alone explain every emotional entrapments. However, most children can sense when/if mommy or daddy is having a bad/sad day. Not to mention if there is tension in the room.
The words of my son inspired me to write this piece; in addition, after numerous of time hearing other parents express how they put a “lock” on their bad/sad emotions to spare their children from seeing them on their weaker days. In my line of work, it’s proven repeatedly that children are able to sense when something is wrong. They are able to sense when/if something is going on – either be emotional distress in the family, tension and so on. A child knows! Therefore, teaching emotional intelligence is important.
As a mother, I encourage my children to be able to express freely whatever they are feeling and accept that it’s their emotions no matter how unsatisfying those emotions can be for me and others around. The result (or at times, reaction) of their emotional state may not always be acceptable but that’s where we as adult come in with guidance – one of our crucial responsibilities as parents. What we learn (experience) at an early age (i.e. habits, dealing with problem, emotions etc.) tends to stick with us and become our ‘truth’ until proven otherwise. It’s no wonder old habits are hard to break.
As parents, we want to protect our children from experiencing unfortunate events and bad things, as we should since one of the task of being a parent is also to protect. But what I’m not for is hiding our emotions from our children. As if it was something to be ashamed of – namely feeling. Putting on a happy face and pretending that everything is OK, at the same time hoping that they don’t see through the lie. For the reason that we don’t want them to see us in our weaker moments, so we put on a brave face. I’ve been there and done that. It’s not uncommon for most parents, and it’s NOT necessarily a bad thing.
But why would showing true emotions be perceived as being weak,
rather than human?
Unfortunately, we live in a society where everybody is trying to fit in – conceal who they are and hide their emotions for the fear of not fitting in the idea of normality. But then I ask myself, what is normal? No one wants to be perceived as weak. Pretending and hiding our emotions has become a norm – something easy to do, a necessity in order to fit in or even survive. This because of the stigma of human emotions/behavior.This shouldn’t be the norm. This shouldn’t be something our children learn to a norm.
Nevertheless, I’m amaze of the fact that children are at times capable of seeing right through our lies. How? Because we tend to underestimate, the fragile-undeveloped-unaware-little people that we perceive them to be. The word children has somehow been detached from the word human. And we seem to forget that they too are human – with emotions, ups and downs. A child who shows their emotions is not a troubled, bad or an abnormal child – but a human being in need of guidance, validation and support. And with love, compassion and empathy we can achieve and prevent a lot.
My son, who is six years old, has a tendency to ask me how I’m doing, if I’m OK, merely because I have a habit of asking him the same questions on a daily basis. I’m touched every time he does, and I make sure he knows how appreciative I am of the gesture. At home and to the people close to me, I’m honest about my emotions. That also include my children. But of course, in a sensible and age-appropriate manner. Now, don’t get me wrong here; I’m not talking about dragging your child in adult problems, situations and/or drama. I’m merely talking about being open and honest with your child. There is nothing wrong with telling your child “No I’m not OK, but I will be” or “I’m angry/disappointed but I love you no matter what”. That’s not robbing them of their innocence nor dragging them into anything but showing them openness and honesty but still assuring them that everything is going to be all right.
Why would we as parents want to hide from them the important thing that makes us human – our emotions, thoughts and feelings? And why would we want to deny them the ability to care for others, and not just any ‘others’ – but us? Their caring and sympathy starts with us. Therefor, how can we expect them to become open and sharing adolescence transitioning to adulthood if we teach (model) them that any (bad!) emotion is meant to be hidden. And that it’s OK to hide your feelings, just by sticking a smile on your face and pretend.
I leave you with more questions: has your child ever seen you cry? If so, are you honest with your child?
I love to hear from you, so please leave a comment (or two) and share your thoughts and opinion(s).