I’m famous in my family for having a horrible memory. Yes, I can still recall the numbers of the two “Raising Arizona” VHS copies from my video store days – 2090, 2091 if you’d like to reserve a copy. The rest of my life is often a blur. Wish I had some reality show cameras to capture it all on my behalf.
I still distinctly recall my parents saying I cried “at the drop of a hat” growing up. It helped that they said it more than once, of course. And they were right.
I can’t say why I was a crybaby. I just cried … and cried. And now, with a karmic rebound suitable for any hack screenwriter, my son is the very same way.
Eli cries after being pummeled by his younger, tough-as-nails brother. I get that. I would, too. But he whines over lesser matters. He can’t eat the cookie dough before it’s cooked. He’s not allowed to strike a match and see what happens. Just about any gentle rebuke could result in a crying jag.
What’s a father to do? The ol’ “rub some dirt in it” line is hopelessly outdated. Literally forcing a child to toughen up doesn’t work. Or it gives his future therapist endless fodder. No thanks.
Settle It at the Schoolyard
As a father I’m not without a few helpful tricks regarding his crybaby ways. For starters, there’s the schoolyard, a place that rarely looks kindly upon crybabies. The peer pressure alone will surely help Eli stabilize his moods. He’s already showing signs of influence from his peers, something that will surely haunt us sooner than later.
I’m also directly telling him we won’t stand for non-essential tears. We don’t want to stop him from releasing his emotions. He’s a kid. He might break down because he’s frustrated, tired or a combination of the two. It’s the other kind of crying jag that we’re trying to corral, like when he puddles up because he can’t get that pet shark he’s had his eye on at the fish store.
Eli trumped his father’s alleged wisdom on the subject during a recent crying jag. After the tears dried up, he took out a pen and paper and drew a self portrait of his sad self. I calmly told him that was a great way to process his feelings, through his art.
It’s also important to realize in the Nature vs. Nurture battle it’s impossible to change the hand you’ve been given. My younger son loves rollercoasters and wrassles like a kid twice his age. In seven years I’ll probably be giving him my lunch money. Maybe six.
Eli is a far more gentle soul, period. I had next to nothing to do with it, nor did Mommylibrium.
It’s ultimately what makes him a sweet, beautiful soul. And if he cries a bit more than the average youngster we can learn to live with that. My parents did.