A fact you learn very quickly when becoming a mom – kids cry. Babies, especially, cry a lot and as moms we immediately want to comfort them and make the tears go away. As they grow, perhaps we don’t always feel the same – like when the crying merges with whining – but those mommy instincts always kick in when we see and hear their sadness. But what about when mommy is sad? What role do our kids play?
My kids have seen me cry – a lot. From the first tears of joy when they were born, to the tears of frustration when they wouldn’t sleep, to the tears of joy on Christmas morning. They’ve seen me upset, angry and disappointed. But until recently, they hadn’t seen me truly sad. Sure, I’ve felt sad and maybe shed a few tears in front of them, but they had not seen me dealing with the kind of sadness that comes with tragedy.
The week after Thanksgiving, my mom became severely ill after a routine procedure. She went on to suffer a stroke and other serious complications and has been in the hospital ever since. My mom – my best friend, my rock, and my support – was faced with the biggest hurdle of her life. As much as I wanted to keep the sadness I was feeling away from my two toddlers, I just couldn’t stop the tears. They saw me breakdown – they saw me at my lowest point.
Of course I had comfort from my husband, family and friends, but – as they often do – my little ones surprised me. I was terrified to let them see me feeling so sad. I wanted to hide my emotions from them, to protect their hearts and prevent them from feeling sad. When that just wasn’t possible, an amazing thing happened. They comforted me. Instead of me drying their eyes, they dried mine. Instead of me holding their hands, they held mine. They told me it would be okay.
I’m sure they felt some of my sadness. I can assure you that when you see your mom sad, it’s hard not to feel the same way. But what I’ve realized – they need to feel sadness. They need to see me feel sad and they need to know how to handle it. They need to know that it is okay to cry and feel sad, and they need to learn how to comfort. It seems they’ve already learned how to do that.
Beyond the signs of comfort, their innocence and presence have been my saving grace. They go on playing, laughing and living, because they know that’s what they have to do. It’s a lesson I am learning from them. When we feel sad, we feel it, cry, comfort and get back to life. As a mom, I hope to comfort my children and teach them about life. In this valley of my life, I know now that they will also comfort and teach me. And it may just be the most important lesson of our lives.