Mom? I Think I Heard You Crying Last Night

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash
That Tuesday morning was chaotic.

We recently set our clocks back an hour and though we were only a few days in, my patience was wearing thin.

Somehow, shifting this one simple hour in our day tricked my family into thinking we had more time.

More time for snoozing,
for teeth brushing,
and sock finding.
For waffle eating,
and back pack checking...

.....Instagram scrolling.....

We rushed to school like army troops; me barking orders like a drill sergeant, "Move, move, move!"

I know in a week or two we will adjust to the time shift.

But if I’m being honest, the time change is not the only reason I was on edge.

A combination of worry over some medical test results, secondary grief after a funeral, and a mile long to do list created the perfect storm of emotions.

The night before, I found myself in full blown tears on the couch.

It had been ages since I’ve had a good cry and while it felt cathartic to release those feelings, it took awhile to get them out.

I got to bed later than normal.

Needless to say, that morning when the twins decided to dip their stocking feet in the dog water and traps around the house while my oldest and I searched for his jacket -  I was seething.

Gritting my teeth, I tore off paper towel squares for the twins and unenthusiastically sang, "Clean up, clean up, everybody, every where!"

Then I heard my six year old softly say,

"Mom? I think I heard you crying last night."  

I froze like Anna.

I stood there like a statue, mouth agape, as my innocent child stared at me.

We often believe our children are oblivious; we think they don’t notice when we are stressed or upset or overwhelmed.

Maybe it’s because no one moves when we ask them to get ready for bed or to brush their teeth for the 10,000th time.

Or because we practically have to stand on a pedestal with a bull horn to get them out the door in the morning.

Yet, the same child who wouldn’t hear an earthquake during a YouTube video, somehow heard my sobs from the couch two stories below.

"It’s okay, Mom," he said,  "everybody feels sad, sometimes."

Then he gave me a quick hug and walked out of the room.

Schooled. By a six year old.

As parents, it is so important to teach our kids about their feelings and that process has three parts:
  1. We name the feeling.  Call it out.  We can do this in the moment. We offer a calm word, "I see you’re really sad right now. It’s OK to feel sad, sometimes." 
  2. We help tame the feeling. Once our child is calm, we teach them tools to cope with their feelings so that they aren’t so overwhelmed. We offer coping skills, "Would you like a hug or a drink of water? I’m here to help you."   
  3. We model the process. As parents, our kids need to see us name and tame our own feelings so they learn by our example.  By doing so, we show them feelings are a normal and an expected part of every day life.  
In his own way, my son was doing what I had done for him hundreds of times: he named my feeling. 

As a mom, I want to appear strong and capable in front of my son. I would never expect him to feel responsible for taming my emotions the way I help him to tame his.  

I think that is why I froze.  

Yet, one of the most courageous things we can do is allow our children to see us manage our own feelings and not hide them in their presence. 

This looks like... 
  • Saying,"I am angry" and walking away before we say hurtful things.  
  • Noticing, "I’m hungry," and stopping for a quick snack before getting cranky.  
  • Admitting, "I’m feeling sad" and accepting a hug from a spouse, loved one, or friend.  
It even looks like vulnerably admitting to your child, "Yes, I was crying. I felt sad. I needed a hug from your dad and then I felt better."  
That night, as I put my sweet boy to bed, I asked him about how my tears made him feel.

"I just...I have never seen you cry before," he said searching my eyes.

"You were worried?" I asked.

I started to feel guilty.

I let my emotions get the best of me and it impacted my kid.

"No," he replied after thinking for awhile, "I guess grown ups have big feelings, too."

Yes, buddy. They certainly do.   

Heather is married to a funny blue devil, mom to three lively boys, and singer both on stage and in her child's ear. She is the owner of Kaloupek Counseling, LLC a private practice offering mental health services to children, teens, and adults in Decatur, IL. You can read more about her, her blog, and counseling practice here. Want to reach out? Send her an email! She would love to hear from you!


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