I’m Not a ‘Good Vibes Only’ Mom — My Kids Are Going to Cry
By Janice Quirt
Photo © amzyrrashid/Twenty20
Nov 11, 2019
When my kids were really young, they had their share of tears: some angry, some from pain, frustration or sadness. And when the waterworks came I would spring into action, comforting, cracking jokes, even telling stories of the dog my family had when I was a kid. How he loved to eat macaroni and cheese and the toxic farts he emitted afterwards.
Sometimes the stories — especially the farting dog ones — would elicit giggles and the tears would stop. I would count this as a job well done and vow to mentally refresh my stock of silly stories.
What I didn’t realize at the time was the great disservice I was doing to my children in cheering them up.
Parenting POV: Is it a parent's role to make life magical for their kids? A mother's perspective here.
Sure, I wanted them to be happy — no parent likes to see their kids cry. But sadness, and other emotions, definitely have their place — and with them, sometimes comes crying.
When I would cajole my kids into stopping the tears, I wasn’t permitting the cry, or their emotions, to run their course. I wasn’t letting my kids know that it was OK to cry, just as it was OK to feel sad, blue, frustrated or unhappy.
A Childhood of Chin Up
I got caught up in the “good vibes only” mentality that colours a lot of interactions these days. Growing up, it was more likely the phrase “put on a happy face” or “chin up, stiff upper lip” and what-not. And it’s not to say that I think we should wallow in self-pity, or prolong a sad mood or a temper tantrum for attention or to punish someone. But, just like in the movie Inside Out, we need to let all of our emotions be recognized. We can’t stuff them down and pretend they don’t exist. It’s helpful to let a mood develop, consider if we know the reason for it, and be accepting if we do or don’t recognize the cause.
Rather than cutting short crying, or preventing all emotions from having their time, I’ve adopted a new tactic with my kids. I am present. I am comforting. I sometimes offer the idea that emotions come and go, just like a storm passing over our house. We aren’t our moods, or defined by our emotions — we can be impacted by them, but really, truly, “this too shall pass."
With the increasing popularity of yoga, meditation and self-care, you hear a lot about “holding space” for one another. When I first heard the term I didn’t really understand what it meant. Was it being a shoulder to cry on? Being there for someone unconditionally? Creating a safe space for people to experience emotions? Turns out all of these things are true, and they’re as relevant for parenting as they are for teaching yoga.
Let Us Cry, Then
In fact it was at a yoga retreat where I heard a story that resonated with me, of an African mother speaking to her daughter who was in tears. Rather than pointing out all the reasons not to cry, or the things the daughter should have been grateful for, the mom simply said to her daughter, “Let us cry then,” and held her in silence until the tears stopped. As they do.
The Guilt of Gratitude
I think part of the problem with a “good vibes only” approach is that it is closely related to the guilt we often have when we — or our kids — are sad. We might feel guilty because often we have a lot of comforts, privileges or advantages and we feel we should be grateful and happy for these blessings. And while it’s wonderful to be grateful, there’s no benefit in feeling guilty for not being happy 100 per cent of the time.
Sometimes, we can be sad, or angry or frustrated, and still appreciate that we are privileged. We can let all the emotions have their time to shine. When we don’t allow ourselves to experience our emotions, they often find ways to come out at different times, in a variety of expressions, and perhaps more intensely.
Read the author's point of view on 'Snowplow Parenting' here.
Good Vibes Only — No Thanks
So I continue to allow my kids to experience all of their emotions. I try to help them understand what’s going on. Sometimes, during a period of intense emotion, we recall fond memories or funny stories, and sometimes we sit together quietly. When we do I’m reminded of a quote by R. Arnold that for me says far more than the “good vibes only” slogan plastered over everything from water bottles to yoga tanks.
It is simply this: “So, if you are too tired to speak, sit next to me, for I, too, am fluent in silence.”
Which, in my opinion, says a lot more than my farting dog stories any day.
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