another working morning -
I had a daughter in tears the other day. Whether in person or on the phone, to have one of my children in tearful sadness creates small explosions of response inside of me. I feel sad, angry, frustrated on their behalf, frustrated on my behalf, and I search frantically for a solution. I want to make it all better.
One of the things I continue to learn over time is to accept the fact that there isn't always a way to fix my children's troubles. Not only that, but much of the time they don't even want me to fix them. They just need a secure place to let off steam, get it out, and move on. Sometimes you just have to let them cry.
I feel that inclination to instruct, look at the bright side, reason, cajole, suggest alternatives -- all potentially worthy strategies from time to time, but not always. Sometimes the best thing is just to acknowledge their sadness. "I'm so sorry." "That is so hard." Maybe a hug, or simply silent understanding.
It's so difficult, as a mom, to just let their sorrow wash over me without trying to make repairs. I heard an illustrative story of a phone call from college student to a parent. The daughter called late one night, filled with despair and anger and tears of frustration that poured forth across the phone lines. The poor mom lay awake for hours afterwards. She waited the next day until the afternoon to call her daughter back again, fretting and worrying all day about how she was doing. "Hi Honey, are you all right?" a pause..."What do you mean?" For the daughter, the torrent of the previous night is a thing of the past.
When my husband and I moved our four children up here to Maine from central Massachusetts almost eight years ago, they were not happy. The move was one of those unexpected turns in life, and the departure for young people ages 10, 13, 13, and 15 was painful.
The first came a few months before the move. I was settling my 13 year old son to bed, and he talked about how hard it was to think about leaving. "Mom, I know I'll make new friends and do new things, but I like my OLD friends and the things HERE...and...I wanted to bring my kids to visit you and Dad in this old house!" There came the tears, and what could I say to that reasoned expression of grief? I don't believe I was capable of speaking in that moment even had I cared to try.
On the night we drove off for the last time, we spent the day and evening with a friend who had a pool, a cookout, and a sunny disposition. Then it was time to go. We decided it might be good to let the kids say one more goodbye to the house they had loved so much. We stopped by for a final walk through before leaving town.
Suffice it to say that I can remember no other time in our lives when all four children were sobbing quite so wrenchingly all at the same time. As we watched them melt down from a distance, J. spoke quietly to me with mock enthusiasm: "Great idea!" I had to laugh (with tears in my eyes), but I still believe it WAS a good idea. Crying can be cathartic, and cleansing, and allows you, then, to just move on.
But I know, it still hurts.