Cry It Out Isn't Just for Babies!

crying kidI read somewhere once that the reason kids cry is all about biology. It's supposed to trigger something instinctual in us, their mothers, bring out what some would call your mama bear. The response makes them feel safe and warm and secure. The only problem is, most of us don't let it get that far.

As writer (and my friend) Kate Tuttle pointed out recently, the new trend in parenting is to shield our kids from the scary stories, to prevent them from "feeling bad" before they ever get the chance. It's got two failings: kids don't get that feeling of being nurtured from mom. But they also lack a chance to develop empathy. Babies are born egocentric -- we help them understand other people's feelings. But that's hard to do if they never experience pain themselves. 

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So I decided to give it a try. I wanted to let my kid cry. And I had the perfect chance. Disney sent me an advanced screener of the new Fox and the Hound Blu-Ray. I had thought it would be a fun trip down memory lane with my daughter, sharing a movie I watched dozens of times as a child with her. But my 15-year-old babysitter refused to watch it with us. "Nope," she said. "Too sad."

Huh. I didn't remember all the details, but I know my mother never had a problem with ME watching it as a child. There were rules in our house, but by and large we were allowed scary stuff. I still remember a terrified little me trying to scramble on her lap during a re-release of one of the early Disney flicks (Snow White perhaps) at our local theater. I can pinpoint my age exactly -- I had to be no older than 5 because her lap was filled up with my brother still nestled in her growing stomach.

Still, I wasn't going to be afraid of tears. I soldiered on. I popped the movie in the Blu-Ray player and let her into the world of Tod the fox and Copper the hunting dog, the unlikeliest of pals. I hoped she'd see a story of true friendship and its power over adversity. But she did me one better.

Tod's "mother," a human who had adopted him when his own died, was being forced to give up the critter (it's a long story: watch the movie!), when she came barrelling at me, tears streaming down her face. "Megan was right," she said. "It's just too sad."

Let me tell you, it hurt to see her cry. My heart ached as I gathered her in my arms and hugged her. But goshdarnit if I wasn't grinning from ear to ear. My kid has empathy y'all! Honest to goodness feelings about how the lady onscreen was feeling.

All I had to do was let her cry to get it out.

Do you find yourself shielding your kids from things that may evoke strong feelings but won't really hurt them in the long run? Would you be willing to try this kind of experiment?

 

Imag by Jeanne Sager

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