I’m a Crybaby and That’s Okay
July 31st, 2016
I am the world’s biggest crybaby. A truly astonishing number of things can cause me to burst into torrential tears, including but not limited to: sad movies, beautiful hymns at church, particularly lovely commercials on TV, and well-written children’s books.
It has long been understood in our house that there are certain books that I just can’t read aloud to my kids because I won’t make it through. Top of the list is a Christmas book called “The Most Precious Gift” about a servant boy in the wise men’s entourage who gives his dog to the infant king. That dog was his only possession and best friend, people! I think noisy, hiccuping sobs are a completely appropriate response to this story. But my kids get annoyed when I have to pause regularly to blow my nose.
I can actually remember with clarity the first movie that ever brought tears to my eyes. It was The Yearling and I was in middle school. My mom is also a movie-sniffler and in the infinite wisdom of youth, I had always regarded this trait as a display of emotional weakness, worthy of meaningfully raised eyebrows and rolled eyes. But then they had to go and shoot that deer and suddenly I joined my mother as a lifetime member of the Cryers Club.
It’s not just sad things that make me tear up. I respond emotionally to self-sacrifice and the triumph of the human spirit, too. You’re just as likely to see me weeping quietly through a happy ending to a story than a sad one. This reaction confuses my kids sometimes. Miss Mouse is particularly attuned to the emotions of people around her and is usually the first to notice if mom is getting choked up. She’s always very solicitous, coming to sit next to me and holding my hand. It’s hard to explain to her why things like the opening ceremony of the Olympics makes me cry, but I think she’s slowly starting to understand.
Last week, she participated in drama camp at our local community theater and it was the hands-down highlight of her summer. Not surprisingly, at the final performance, I was a total mess. There is something about seeing our children conquer a milestone that is both beautiful and painful. Moments like that are transitions, benchmarks on their paths to adulthood. My daughter is becoming less mine and more her own every day. That’s the work of childhood, right? For our children to take those thousand tiny steps away from our sides, growing into themselves as we support and cheer and weep embarrassingly in the audience.
There she stood on the stage, clutching the microphone and belting out the twenty-second solo that was the culmination of her week. The moment had arrived, and she did great. ‘Whistle While You Work’ never sounded so good. She was shining like a candle – nervous and excited and fiercely proud of herself. As for me? Well, you can probably guess.
Later that night, Miss Mouse turned to me in the car and said – “I cried tonight.” When I asked her why, she replied – “Don’t worry, mom. They were happy tears.” I squeezed her hand because I understood completely. Welcome to the club, kiddo.