During a rather turmultuous evening a few days ago, which ended in tears (for Isabel and myself), Sofia knocked on my bedroom door as I gave myself a much needed time out in my bedroom.
This isn’t the first time she has asked to come in to see me while I’m in the midst of breaking down. I used to feel torn in situations like this. I have read that a child should never see their parent cry – that their parents grief should not be the child’s burden to carry. That in order for them to be a happy child, they should be allowed to be light hearted and free of negative emotions.
I have been told by some that a child needs their parent to be strong. That no matter what is going on in your grown up life, be that force of stability they need to know that everything is going to be okay.
Though I agree with being a rock for your kids to anchor on to, I have also come to learn that you can’t fool them. They know things whether you tell them or not. They feel things, they have such a strong intuition of the environment around them and have the ability to pick up on your mood even before you do at times.
Plus, I have come to believe that being honest about how you feel helps your child be okay with being honest about how they feel. It’s okay for them to know that parents are not perfect, we don’t have all the answers and we sometimes get angry, sad, cry, make mistakes, and then get angry and sad all over again. Just like them.
So I’ve stopped sheltering my daughters from my sadness. Though they don’t see me every time I breakdown (no one needs that kind of melodrama in their lives), I no longer hide the fact that I’m sad enough to cry, or frustrated enough to need some alone time.
That particular evening, Sofia saw my red, swollen eyes and tissues in hand, saddled up next to me and said “It’s okay to cry Mommy. It’s okay to have a moment and be sad. Sometimes we need to let it out and then we feel better. I know because that’s how I feel too. And I know hugs make me feel better so if you open the door for me, I can give you some hugs if you like while you cry. And I will keep you company, because that helps me when I’m sad. And maybe your sad moment won’t be so long then.”
In stripping away my false bravado, not only does it allow me show my children that even Mommy has feelings too, it also challenges them to begin to feel empathy for those around them. And it is that empathy, that will eventually form the basis for every relationship they have in their lives, platonic or romantic.