Posts tagged ‘crying’

Dear Lady at the Coffee Shop

Dear Lady at the Coffee Shop,

I noticed that the sounds my daughter was making bothered you. Your vociferous grumblings, along the lines of: …screaming and crying children… bah! … were heard from the booth in which we sat, and were not much appreciated.

When I set my boiling anger aside I can find empathy for you. Perhaps you were tired after a long walk into town. Perhaps you were hot and looking for a nice place to rest, read your paper, and sip your iced coffee in peace. Perhaps you never had children and the mere sight of them causes your heart to stir in uncomfortable ways. Perhaps you fought with your lover in the early morn and could not handle any further outbursts of emotion. Perhaps you always grumble when hearing the cries of a child, a habit you learned early on and cannot drop.

Any version of my wild imaginings allow me to love you a little bit and hate you a little less.

But I’d also like to give you some information: parents do not want their children to scream or cry. Their pain and suffering is something we seek to prevent with all the might and skills that we possess. We especially do not want them to scream or cry in the cafe and disturb old ladies drinking their coffee and reading the paper. Many parents will avoid public outings altogether so as to preserve the relative peace of the non-reproducing public. Other parents will yank their children roughly by the arm, dragging them to a discreet location where they can spank them for expressing themselves in such a way, where the parent can unleash a stream of their own insecurity and shame for having bothered a person such as yourself.

I am not one of these parents although I too, in my own way, seek to please others, to make them smile at my child and feel happy to see us, not inspire them to grumble irritatingly at the sound of her discontent. But while I long for your approval, I will not sacrifice my girl in order to receive it. I believe she is a human being with equal rights to downtown coffee shops. When she cries in dismay I choose to hold her, finding that response far less disturbing than escalating the situation and noise with violence and threats. In fact, the screaming and crying you mentioned while flipping through the news lasted less than ten seconds and was followed by an hour of quiet contentment.

Perhaps this information might also prove helpful: a bagel arriving with cream cheese instead of butter is upsetting to a three-year old. So might the position of a water glass, or a beloved squeaky shoe falling from the booth and into the depths that lie beneath the table. There are hundreds of small, seemingly unimportant instances that can cause torrential grief in a small human. Their world is littered with emotional land mines, but thankfully, in my opinion, children are not yet shackled by social constraint. My girl didn’t see you behind us in the booth, and in any case wouldn’t know that unleashing the secrets of her heart would be disturbing, to you or anyone else. Where you, or I, suffer from withholding our pain, she does not. Her heart is clear and unfettered.

When I heard you, over the whimpers of my cradled girl, I wanted to spring up and shout in your face. Imagining carrying out this reaction, so out of character for me, entertained me long enough for my heart to still, for my focus to resettle on my girl’s tangly locks. You don’t know. You simply do not know. Your heart is tucked so far within, so far from the surface that you think it is my child’s cries that disturb you, not something that you brought along, something old, and faded and permanently imbedded. You do not know, or do not remember what heartache feels like when you release it immediately, what it sounds like as it echoes off the walls of a cafe.

I am no longer mad.




August 24, 2010 at 10:46 am 7 comments

no green guy yet

Well I ended that last post filled with bravado, a devil-may-care attitude, and an actual plan to go out the very next day and buy that bird.

But I didn’t.

We did go to a store and look at cages and perches and food bowls. But it didn’t feel right. My inner judgmental voice was saying: Buy the used $60 birdcage, grab a few essentials and call it good. But the me of me, the shiny spirit that loves that bird and wants the best for him was saying: No! This doesn’t feel right! This is not what I was dreaming of. So I actually started crying amidst the wooden perches and seed treats. My family was pretty confused.

So we didn’t get the bird and instead drove to the hot springs. Nathan and I analyzed my feelings about money and what the bird means to me, in the biggest sense, while we drove out of town and into the woods. We slipped and slid on the icy path until we found ourselves deep in moose country and soaking in a gravely, slimy, sulphurous pool. (It sounds gross but feels heavenly.) We joined a nice man named Larry who had already found a comfy spot against a rock. Bella entertained him with lengthy conversation while the rest of us did nothing much at all, just stared at the view and moved our legs in wishy swirls.

We even heard a tree crash down in the woods. I’ve never heard that before. A mythical sound.

I’d like to report that I triumphed over my inner demons, manifested riches, told my inner jury to f__ off, and returned with a happy little green guy, but I can’t. It was a beautiful day, yes. A fantastic family adventure day, yes. A relaxing sweet early spring celebration day, yes. But alas, not a bird buying day.

March 17, 2010 at 7:02 pm 1 comment

even this

All feelings are acceptable, and there is so much for us to learn about our children when we can understand how they feel. But here’s the thing… if you want your child to express how he, or she, is feeling… you, as the parent, must make it safe for them to do so.

Here are six ways to create an environment in which your kid will want to tell you about his/her feelings.

1. It is not “o.k”

Stop saying, you’re okay! It’s okay. It’s going to be okay. If you find yourself saying this, it is because your child is not okay with something. If they are upset, it is a disservice to them to tell them, instead, that they are not upset, that they are okay.

Scenario: Boy falls and scrapes his knee.

Mom says: You’re okay! It’s just a little scrape! See, no blood. You’re okay.

Although Mom is trying to be comforting, she is also making it clear that she is in charge of how the boy feels. This is both untrue and insulting.

Instead mom can say: Oh you fell! How are you?

2. Prompting

Stop prompting your child as to how they should feel. It is common for a parent to be in the background indicating to a child that they should smile! be pleased! when given a present or compliment, demonstrating the “appropriate” feeling for the occasion.

Instead, try a more neutral facial expression and wait to see how your child actually feels about a situation.

3. Shushing

It’s perfectly normal for humans to be upset, and cry, even sob and wail. Stop saying: ssssshhhhhhh, sssssshhhhhhhh to help a child stop crying. Make no effort, verbal or otherwise, to stop a child from crying as this only indicates to them that these strong feelings are not acceptable.

Instead, hold them and give them empathy- oh you are so sad about that. If they are too loud for the surroundings, then remove them from the environment without it feeling like a punishment. Give them all the time they need to feel their sadness and let it out.

4. Name calling

Do not give your child names for expressing their emotions no matter how annoying, to you, these expressions may be, or even if the names are “harmless” or cute.

Henry stop being such a whiner! I told you dinner wasn’t ready yet. If you’d leave me alone instead of whining at me I’d have it done already!

Instead: Henry I know you are hungry. You’re frustrated dinner is taking so long. I’m trying my hardest to hurry, but I am pretty distracted by talking to you about when dinner will be ready. I think if you found an activity to do time would pass more quickly and I would be able to concentrate better and get it done faster.


You silly goose! Pants are for your legs not your head! You’re such a silly goose.

Instead: Are you making a joke? Pants usually go on your legs not your head right!? That’s so funny!

5. Lauding

If you value one emotion over another, your child will quickly understand that some feelings are worthy of praise and others should be avoided.

You were so brave at the dentist today! You didn’t even cry one bit! I am so proud of you!

Instead: What did you think of the dentist today? How was it for you?

6. Judging

Watch for subtle clues you give that show judgement. Do you roll your eyes when telling your girlfriend about the meltdown over the sippy cup? These hints of your displeasure are not invisible.

7. Expressing yourself

Do not hide what you are feeling.

Oh, Mama’s fine honey. I know I was crying but it’s nothing. Did you finish the t.v. show? Are you hungry?

Instead: Yeah I am crying. I feel sad. It’s not for you to worry about honey, it’s for the grown-ups to worry about. I’m sad but I’m still your mama and I can take care of you even if I’m sad.

Let your own feelings be known. There is no need to tell your child all the details of your personal life or financial situation, but you can express your true feelings. Model what you’d like to see from them.

December 7, 2009 at 1:22 am 4 comments

sad emily

I heard the phone ring and I just knew. It was bad news.

My sister Emily has a dog, Bello. You might as well call him an appendage he is so woven into the very fabric of her life, of her spirit. Bello was diagnosed with cancer today and given three months to live.


Bello is so great. There are dogs and then there are great dogs and Bello is one of those. Brown, loyal, sturdy, consistent, and devoted. They are never apart. He waits for her outside of any building she enters, sometimes for a long time. He accompanies her on every trip. He sleeps under the covers. In a crowded room he lays down and makes long steady eye contact with her.

He is her child and best friend rolled into one, and now she looks at him and can see the end of his life. She is living the day that she has always dreaded.

I am so sad. My sister crying can cause me to cry quicker than anything on the face of the earth, and tonight she is sobbing.

I am reminded, against my will, that the things you love, the very most of all, still leave you.

Oh life, so much to teach us about loving and letting go, and sometimes we do not want to be taught.

December 4, 2009 at 5:00 am 1 comment

baby lizard incites tazmanian devil


Here is the scene:  Xi has a fever and is watching a movie,  Nathan and I are analyzing something in the kitchen, and Echo is to-and-fro-ing with chatter and various props. She returns from a foray delighted with a baby lizard wrapped in a blanket.


“Mama can you help me redo this sling for my baby?”

“Sure, how’s this?”

“Yeah that’s good…..NOOOO!!! That’s too strong on my back!”

“O.K….., how’s this?”

“NO! That’s not right! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”, and falls to the ground.

I think: uh oh, and glance at the clock- 7:50pm.

Papa chimes in (yeah for papas!):

“Coco, how about something more like a belt to wrap the baby?”

Pops right up, tears dry instantly, “Yeah! A belt! That’s a good idea! That will work!”

I think: phew, close one!

I use a tiny strip of fabric to wrap that plastic lizard expertly, perfectly, strapping it securely around Echo’s little chest. But…

(I wish I had larger type for her response.)

“NOOOOO!!!!!!!! That’s too BIG! No, No, NO!!!!! WAAAAAAAAHHHHH!”

Too big? oh dear

She rips the lizard off. I reach for her, she reaches for me, but her reach turns into a rhino charge that then pirouettes onto the floor. She is a screaming, writhing, TAZMANIAN DEVIL. She is literally a blur. I lean in to comfort her and she screeches. Nathan turns to look at her, and she screeches. This lasts for a while and we’re at a loss.

And then, risking my life, I scoop her up. She twists and wails, and I say:

“I’m just going to try this out.”

I walk toward the bedroom.

“I don’t want to go to sleep!!!!!!!!”

“You don’t? Even when we go in here…. and turn down the shades?”


“Even when we close the door?”


“Even when we get under these cozy covers?”

“Yeah I do want to.”

nurse, nurse, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I lay there with her and thought smugly: mother knows best ( and I thought it in a sticky, sweet, preachy, kind of voice). And then I silently LAUGHED and LAUGHED and LAUGHED. I do not!  Most often we use that phrase to justify a controlling act. Sure I had some evidence to back up the sleepy verdict but let’s face it; I was just plain old lucky.

I have returned from that same bedroom holding a very sleepy, but very not asleep child, too many times to get smug. It doesn’t matter how sleepy I think she is, or how much I think I know that she needs to go to sleep, if she isn’t ready she isn’t ready. Tonight I walked toward that bedroom with a good idea, and  an open mind, fully prepared to return the tazmanian devil to the awake world. But as it turns out, she was ready, and nobody lost an eyeball.


October 29, 2009 at 5:03 am 3 comments

the sorrow of boat covers

Today Echo wanted to be sad.

She tried so hard, so many different times to cry. It seemed like a forced yawn. More of a shouty shouty wail than a sob. And she cast about for a reason, something to get her going good.

“Mom is that a boat?”

“Yeah a boat with a cover on it.”

“WAAAAHHHHHHHHH! WAAAAAHHHHHHH! I don’t want a cover on it!”

“You don’t want a cover on the boat?”

“NO! WAAHHHHH! I don’t ‘member why there’s a cover! WAAAHHHHH!”

(long explanation of why boat owners use covers; fall leaves that stain, dirt that blows about , etc.)


Finally I realized that no amount of information was going to help. It wasn’t the boat cover. Empathy about a boat having a boat cover was not going to help. I eventually asked her if she wanted to be sad. Yes. Did she want to cry? Yes.

The only problem was that there wasn’t anything she could get juiced about. So what to do? Empathy for not finding something to get a good cry from, of course!

“You really want to cry hard and it’s not working.”


“Shoot. You want to cry about the boat cover but can’t get the tears going huh?”



Then. “Look Mama they have an orange pumpkin AND a green pumpkin!!!!”

It was over.

October 20, 2009 at 6:00 am 3 comments

what if…


What if six year olds ruled the world (or even just your household)?

There is a lot of back and forth at our house. We are a modern, mixed family so both Bella and Xi come and go  from our house in three or four day chunks. We’d rather have them all, all of the time, but some days there is one child and on other days there are three. And, by the way, in case you don’t already know this, two kids are not really like double the amount of one, it really feels more like doubling the effect of one kid and adding six more. And three kids? Well that’s kind of like when the weather is technically forty degrees but with wind chill it feels like negative six. Three kids isn’t just one kid multiplied by three. Three kids feels more like, say, ninety five kids. So, anyway, yesterday was just a one child day. Just Echo puttering about with a few toys, stopping to nurse or read books, crashing out at seven thirty.

But today… a sibling was added. And the first thing I noticed? Well after I noticed how cute Xi is and how much I miss her when she is gone, the first thing I noticed was: “WAAAAAAH!!!!!”

Older siblings make younger ones cry.

Okay, to be fair, Echo cried yesterday too. But just a little bit here and there from frustration or fatigue, or maybe an owie, not like today. Today there seemed to be wails every five minutes. They weren’t always caused by pain (but sometimes they were!), sometimes they were caused by a misunderstanding, or a dispute over who was playing with what toy, or who knows what, but they were heard loud and clear.

So in my mind I simplified things and I came up with this: one kid equals less noise, less mess, less crying. Two kids equal more noise, more crying, more insanity. But then I realized…

More kids equal more FUN. It’s true. Our day at home yesterday was mild and serene, but you need the older child to take games to the next level, to complicate the events with more creativity and challenge. Part of why Echo was crying is because she was participating in much more complex activities.

If Xi weren’t here, then the red bouncy ball would never have been tied to the plastic bouncy pony which was then tied to the doorknob of the backdoor. I’m a pretty cool mom but if given the choice between a neat and tidy activity like stories, over a wild, and household disrupting game of insane carnival ride, I usually choose stories. But when the six year old sibling directs the play it’s not really up to me.

So if six year olds ruled this household this is what dinnertime would look like.


But I watched those girls on their wild carnival ride and remembered that yes more kids means more, but more of EVERYTHING. More kisses goodnight, more nonsensical jokes at dinnertime, more living room dance recitals, and more weddings to imaginary people. More. And, tonight at least, that feels really good.

October 15, 2009 at 6:00 am 1 comment

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