Is it okay to let your kids see your cry? Grieve? I was reading an interview with Angelina Jolie in Vanity Fair where she said, “I do not want my children to be worried about me. I think it’s very important to cry in the shower and not in front of them. They need to know that everything’s going to be all right even when you’re not sure it is.” I completely understand what she is saying, but I honestly don’t know if I agree with her. I understand giving children the sense that you’re strong and everything will be all right, but I also feel like we have to live authentically in front of our kids and at times that means crying. At least in my world it does, but I’m also sensitive and tend to feel things deeply.
I think Angelina Jolie’s comments stood out to me, because as a single parent I’ve had some serious grieving over the past year plus. For me, some of my hardest moments have been in the past several months. And as I’ve learned about grief, it comes in waves and can hit you out of nowhere. It’s like standing in ocean with your back to the waves and getting the big surprise wave that knocks you off your feet. I think that part has been the hardest to navigate for me. Sometimes a memory will trigger a tear and boom I’m there, in the grief. Once we were driving and something I saw triggered a memory, which triggered the tears. Despite my giant sunglasses and loud music my daughter noticed the tears. She even asked, “Are you sad because…” I told her yes, my heart is hurting. We held hands and just were. I may not have the ugly cry with the huge crocodile tears in front of her, but I will share that I’m sad and sometimes when you’re sad you cry.
I think like anything with parenting, you know your kids and what they can handle. I wouldn’t have the big, ugly, snotty cry in front of my daughter, because I know that would really worry her. I save those cries for my dog! Yet as a SP, my daughter is with me almost all of the time and she has and will see me sad and maybe even cry. When it happens I just try to be honest and tell her it’s okay to feel what you feel and that tears are normal. I think part of my reasoning is my own upbringing. I remember thinking that my father never cried, then a funeral would hit- he’d cry and I had no idea how to handle it. I grew up in a typical Midwestern family – you stuff those feelings down! Feeling something…don’t acknowledge it and for goodness sakes say you’re fine when asked! I say this with a smile on my face, but there is a lot of truth to it as well. I think that is a huge part of my motivation – knowing that suppressing feelings and tears just doesn’t work if you want to be healthy and raise healthy kids. A friend wrote on a sticky note for me, ‘What you resist- persists.’ Good reminder. I call it deal with now or it will bite you in the a@# later.