As her crying jags grew less frequent, they affected me even more. They made me realize how deeply she felt about things. Sometimes they made me question my own judgment. I hated myself for allowing her tears to weaken my resolve. If she were being punished for a poor choice, then cried, I reminded myself, “Lesson learned.” But it was still difficult for me.
Once she entered school, I wanted her to control her outbursts better. I didn’t want her to crumble into tears over hurt feelings and be teased by the other kids. If she started to cry at home over a minor disagreement, I’d tell her to pull herself together.
Just last week, her tutor told me that she had done well, but at one point, had disobeyed. When my daughter was instructed to write with a pencil, she kept writing with a marker. A permanent marker. The tutor told her it would soak through the paper, so my daughter continued writing. I nodded and walked my child out to the car.
My daughter smiled up at me, “Do I get a treat?” Often when she does well at tutoring, she gets a chocolate Frosty from the Wendy’s drive-thru.
“Not today,” I said. I lectured that she needed to show respect to the tutor and do as she says. This is when I got the explanation about how she was careful not to let the marker soak through the paper. I was torn, since most of the hour-long session had gone well. I drove past Wendy’s anyway. I didn’t want to reinforce her poor listening skills. And so she began to cry.
And cry. My shoulders clenched. My head throbbed. Fifteen minutes of sobs from the backseat felt like hours. I wondered if I’d made a mistake. I then worried if I caved, I’d teach her to cry even more. I considered telling her to pull herself together. But I decided to let her continue. Even when she ratcheted up the volume.
I turned on the radio to distract myself. Soon, the music soothed her, too, and she quieted. We were almost home when she said in a calm voice, “I have to tell you something weird, Mom.”
“What?” I asked, my body still tense.
“Crying made me feel better.”
I hadn’t expected that. All of those times I’d tried to stifle her tears, maybe I’d been denying her some kind of catharsis. Then I remembered an old “Everybody Loves Raymond” episode where Debra said sometimes she just needed a good cry. She’d put on the theme from Ice Castles and give in to her emotions.
“Isn’t that weird, Mom?” my daughter asked again. She seemed pleased with her discovery that tears can actually work like salve on a wound.
I don’t understand it, but what matters is that she does.
How about you? Do you believe in the healing power of tears?
If you're on the verge of tears, treat yourself to On the Verge, which tells of a single mom whose wonderful new husband hits his head and changes personalities. How long should she wait for her true love to return? What if he never does? Click here to learn more about On the Verge, which is "highly recommended" by the Midwest Book Review. (If nothing else, it'll distract you from your own problems). Please pass this along by clicking the buttons below. Thanks!