I collected my grandson from school last week. He thought he was staying in after-school club because his mother was working, but I rang and told her that I would collect him early and bring him over to his aunts house, so he could see and play with his cousins. He hadn’t seen them in a few weeks as both my daughters have been busy with work and other commitments.
When he was in the car I asked him if he was surprised that he was being collected early and he said he was, because he thought he would have to stay in all day. He is only 6 years old, I might add. He also had to be dropped to school early for breakfast club, so that his mother could get to work on time, so it can be a long day for him.
As I looked at him through the rear view mirror, I thought he looked pale, tired and also he looked like he had been crying. I asked him if he had been crying to which he replied no. I said ‘oh you look tired, maybe that is it’. He confirmed yes he was a bit tired as he had been in school for breakfast club.
I asked him how he felt when the teacher told him that ‘nanny’ was collecting him early. He then said that he was happy and excited and that he remembers now that he did cry then, ‘happy tears’ and that he could feel the tears coming again now because we were going to see his cousins and he was happy about that.
This made me feel both happy and sad. I know lots and lots of working mothers have to avail of child care so they can work, before school and after school. I had to do it myself when my girls were little. It’s not easy to do, to juggle, but it is the life for many working mothers. I couldn’t help but feel sad a little because it is a long day for him. I also felt happy that he could express himself. He is very good at articulating what he thinks and feels.
I told him it was OK to cry, whether they are happy or sad tears, as that is the Emotion, he was feeling at that time. ‘What’s emotion’ he asked me, looking back at me in the mirror. I explained that when we feel happy or sad, angry, excited or frightened for example, our body reacts somehow to that emotion.
‘So when you were told you were leaving early you felt happy and excited and your body reacted by your eyes welling up and having happy tears. Likewise, sometimes when you feel angry, you might shout and your body might also want to slam a door, punch the pillow or throw the toy’ I said, eyeing him carefully in the mirror as we drove.
‘You might also cry because you feel angry because you are frustrated, same as when you feel sad and upset you may cry. That is your body’s way of dealing with the feeling and that is what ’emotion’ is.
I explained how the body also reacts when hungry, in that it lets us know by our tummy growing and rumbling, that it is your body telling you it needs food.
‘oh, he said, so sometimes I get ‘hangry’ when I want food and so does mammy’ he said, matter of fact. ‘ Yes I said, that’s right, when you are hungry you very well may get a little agitated and angry, because it’s your bodies way of saying ‘feed me’.
I explained that emotions are good to have as it helps people see or read how another person is feeling by the way the person looks or by the way a person is acting and that lets us help, if any help is needed.
I asked him to think of his mother and how that makes him feel. He closed his eyes, his face softened and he smiled saying ‘I love my mammy’ as he opened his eyes looking at me in the mirror.
See, that is emotion I said, and your face, your voice and your body all reacted to that feeling, so don’t be afraid to cry, whether happy or sad or angry tears because that is just your body reacting to your feeling and that shows other people how you are.
It made me think about boys and crying and how they are sometimes told ‘big boys don’t cry’ or man up as they get older, especially into their teen years. This in particular concerns me. Why is it viewed that it is OK for girls to cry, but not boys.
I am quite the feminist and all for strong independent women and for equality and parity , but I also believe it is OK for girls/women to cry, AND also for boys/men.
They say that women can ‘cope’ a lot better with life’s stresses because they talk to their female friends and ‘offload’ about how they are feeling. A problem shared and all that.
Shouldn’t we be teaching our boys that not only is it OK to cry, it is essential, so as not to suppress that natural emotion that they are feeling, for to do so, they are denying a fundamental biological process. If they denied themselves food, when they are hungry, they would starve.
With so many mental health problems, especially amongst young men, isn’t it crucial that, from a very young age, we not only say it is OK to cry, WHETHER happy or sad tears, but it is essential and normal, as it is the body’s way of dealing with the feeling?
I would hate to think that my grandsons, when they are going through the rigours of the teenage years, when they are trying to navigate puberty, emotions, fitting in and identity, that they would feel that they cannot openly cry, without fear of being called a ‘sissy’ a ‘girl’ a ‘whimp’ for example, by their peers. It makes me want to cry!
Why is is OK for girls and not boys? What is wrong with showing emotion. In my mind, it is a sign of strength, not weakness to be able to express oneself, in order to be true to oneself and to feel whole. To suppress any emotion is damaging and the last thing we want to do to ourselves, to our children, is to damage them, right?
So, I say to all the boys out there, when your body wants to cry, whether they are happy or sad tears, go ahead and cry the same as you would laugh, if you saw something funny, the same as you would feed your body, when it is hungry. Not only does it give you a release to cry, it allows someone close to you to try to help and share the burden/problem with you in the sad tears as well as the joy in the happy tears.
There is pure strength in being in touch with your feelings and in my mind any boy/man than can openly cry and express or try to express how he is feeling, is a man I would want in my life, because it lets me know he is honest, open and compassionate.