As a mother of a three year old, I know first hand kids crying is not the most joyous sound to hear. I know it can get on a person’s nerves and make them uncomfortable. I know I just want it to stop as soon as possible. I know I am making it about me and my comfort and not about comforting my daughter. I also know, I am wrong for doing this.
Today, as I listened to my daughter cry because she couldn’t have a piece of chocolate (she’d just had chocolate ice cream) and I told her to stop because I didn’t want to hear her cry, I realized I was not letting her acknowledge her feelings about her circumstances at the moment. When she decided to go upstairs and cry by herself, I listened to my sister tell her to go back downstairs and cry because she didn’t want to hear it, I realized she was not letting my Della acknowledge her feelings. When Della came back downstairs looking lost and defeated, I realized I had taken away her power to express her sadness and frustration. I and my sister were telling her, her feelings didn’t matter.
Della is three and three year olds cry. Does she cry all day? No. Does she throw temper tantrums? Rarely. Does she gets sad and overwhelmed at times? Yes. But, she is a toddler and she is learning how to process her emotions. She is learning how to express herself in a world of where it seems everyone can do what they want but her. As a three year old, she cannot sit down and properly express to me how she’s feeling and control her emotions every day all day. Usually, Della is pretty good as controlling her feelings. If she’s upset and crying, she will go sit on the steps, cry, get herself together, and come talk to me afterwards, but, as she gets older, it’s getting harder for her to process and understand these new feelings.
As she looked up at me, with her big brown eyes, feeling defeated and emotionally drained, I realized I was letting my feelings and my emotions dictated how she should express herself. It also made me look at myself and how I dealt with emotions and acknowledge the shadows of my past. How I felt I needed to hide when I was feeling sad, when I cried, or was feeling frustrated because I knew my parents didn’t want to “hear that noise”. I was reminded of how I felt my feelings and sadness didn’t matter and how I felt scared to show any emotion besides happiness for fear of making someone else uncomfortable. It also reminded me of how alone I felt, as a child and teenage, because I didn’t have anyone to help me understand what I was feeling. How alone I feel now. How, as a society, the only emotion acceptable to show is happiness.
I refuse to let Della think the only time she can be around her family is when she is happy. The only time we want her to show emotions is when she is entertaining us or other people. The only time she is a good child is when she is happy. I don’t want her to think she can’t be comfortable, expressing her sadness, in her own home. I don’t want her to grow up with the belief that other’s feelings are more important than hers. That she is not allowed to feel frustrated or sad. That she is only here to make other’s happy.
Does this mean I am going to let her throw temper tantrums all day? No. It means I am going to acknowledge her feels and her. I am going to try to help her understand and process these feelings. Not because, I don’t want to hear her cry, but because I want her to understand she can cry and there is someone here to help and love her. I want her to know and feel she has emotional support. I want her to know my feelings are not more important than hers and she doesn’t have to hide her sadness. Della is not just my daughter, or a niece, or a granddaughter, she is her own person, who has feelings and insecurities just like everyone else. As her mom, it’s my responsibility to help her become the best person she can be. Because, she’s too young to live in a world where no one cares.