As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

You Just Keep Crying

Like most parents, I don't like to hear my children cry.  My second son was our most fussy baby, and I did not handle his crying very well at all.  I tried countless things in an attempt to fix his problem, old wives tales that never worked, changed my diet, snuggled him, let him "cry it out" - nothing.  The more I tried the more frustrated we both were.  And I've shared previously some of my biggest parenting regrets were during his infancy, when I just could not handle all his crying.  I felt like a failure, I questioned why a God in charge of the infinite universe could not solve my son's obvious intestinal distress.  I talked to therapists who gave completely impractical and unusable advice, and in the end just had to make peace with the fact that this little guy was a crier.

I wish I had handled that time in my life differently, but the fact is that living through it changed me for the better.  My oldest child was so easygoing (still is!) but this little guy, from day one he was a sensitive soul.  He wears his heart on his sleeve, and it breaks my heart that in the beginning what I was telling him (not so much with words, but absolutely by my actions) was that it was not okay.  I have worked to remedy that ever since, and with every age and stage with this boy have often had to remind myself to take a bit of extra time, and be attentive to him.  He taught me to accept him as he is - that it's okay to be sensitive.

It wasn't until my first girl came along that I really began to delve into what this means.  As a baby my daughter was easygoing and cheerful - happy to be close to me and easily soothed.  But as she grew into her toddler years and beyond she began to push my buttons in a way her three older brothers never did.  And you guys - little girls are SENSITIVE!  She was like a delicate flower, and when I tried to discipline or became too frustrated her spirit was easily crushed.  I remember having conversations with my husband and asking why I could brush certain things off with the boys, but with her they hit me so much deeper, and made me lose my patience so much quicker?

I remember the first time I was turned off by how easily she started to cry, and it hit me that the burden of sensitivity really carries a bit of a negative stigma with it. We don't want to see people cry, we find it hard to be with people who are upset.  We feel good about ourselves when we can help them calm down but when we can't, we feel terrible.  And it hit me like a ton of bricks that my job as her mother was not to make her happy - it was to be with her no matter what she was feeling.  To be a soft place for her to land when life was confusing, and she didn't know why she was crying.  I remember saying to her from the time she was a baby that it was okay if she needed to cry, I would be with her.

Now that we have new infant in the house, it's been a great opportunity to teach that lesson to my older kids as well. Often if I'm in the middle of doing something (especially at the end of the day when the baby is fussy) I'll ask an older sibling to sit with the baby for a few minutes while I finish up.  Usually the presence of the older child calms the baby but sometimes it doesn't, and more than once an older sibling has come to me and said, "I can't do it."

"What do you mean?" I'll ask, "what can't you do?"

"He won't stop crying," the child will answer. And it gives me an opportunity to tell them that it's okay if they can't get him to stop crying - that they just need to be there.  Sometimes I'll suggest they sing, and if that doesn't work they are again quick to say they can't do it.  But I remind them that even though he's crying, they are helping just by being there - because then he doesn't have to cry alone.  I'm not sure they get it yet, it's a lesson I'm still working on.  But at least the opportunity is there.

I had the great privilege this past weekend of bouncing a friend's baby who was colicky.  And again, as I walked around with her, I wanted so badly to be able to help her calm down.  That kind of love feels good, it's gratifying.  But it's not always what we need.  Because what if we really can't stop crying? What if the weight of the world is bearing down so heavy on us that we just can't pull ourselves together?  Do we need people around us who are uncomfortable by our sadness, or do we need people who will love us as we are? Gradually I realized that this little one just needed comfort, and that the best way I could love her and her mother was to just be okay with her crying - and so I was.  We paced back and forth, and I snuggled her cheek close to mine and told her that I was okay with her crying.  I sang softly into her ear and rocked back and forth, and told her she could cry as much as she needed, and she did - until she heard her Mama's voice.  Which was all she really needed.

After a stressful week, I've been crying a lot (a little of the sad kind, but a lot more of the yelly, short-tempered kind).  And when that happens, I feel bad.  I feel like I don't have it together, like I'm burdening my family, like I'm letting God down.  But I have a feeling He doesn't feel the same way.  That He sees my crying the same way a mother sees her baby's crying.  That He doesn't condemn or shake His head at me for not being able to keep it together.  Instead I imagine being scooped up in His arms, snuggled close, and told, "it's okay if you need to cry.  I'm here with you."

God is not nearly as uncomfortable with our falling apart as we are.  He's kind of an expert at being there in our weakest moments.  When I can get past myself and my own inclination to beat myself up even more, I realize that if I turn to God I will meet the compassion and love I need to just be myself - just like our little ones who cry, and yet we couldn't possibly love them any more.  I've been thinking so much lately about what it means to really invite the Lord into my relationship with myself, and that has been kind of mind blowing for me.  It's obvious that He needs to be in my relationship with others, but what about how I treat myself?  What if instead of beating myself up, I instead cut myself some slack?  If I look on myself with tenderness the way God does, so that I can let down the walls in my deepest and innermost person that keep me from completely receiving God's transforming love?

Only then will I truly be open to receiving His comfort.  And when I do, when I hear Him say that it's okay - you just keep crying, I'm here - then I'm free to truly be myself.  And broken in His love I will find completeness, wholeness, peace.

"And like a newborn baby
Don't be afraid to crawl
Remember when you walk
Sometimes you fall
So fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live."

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