Camryn is playing with stickers and is noticeably disappointed
when one rips. She stares at it for a few seconds and then
begins to cry. Not any ordinary cry, but a loud wailing
cry. I watch her for a minute or two and decide to pick her
up and hug her. Her strong response tells me that she is not
just crying - she is releasing.
She sits on my lap and cries loud and hard. I don't speak
- I just rub her back as she lets it out. Skylar walks over
and rubs her foot, a kind gesture from a 2-year-old.
I don't think Camryn is crying because of the ripped sticker -
the sticker just pushed her over the edge. She may have had a
tough day at school or maybe she didn't sleep great. Maybe
she asked for something earlier in the day and nobody heard her or
maybe she lost her favorite book.
I have days where one thing after the next goes wrong and the
simple act of tripping over a carpet throws me into a
tailspin. I know how emotional build up can result in an out
of proportion response.
There are so many emotional experiences in the course of a
day. Sometimes we work through them and sometimes we just
swallow them. Sometimes we need to release them, and in
Camryn's case the ripped sticker was an opportunity to let it all
I don't always have the patience to respond to my daughter in
this way. At times I am "full" with my own stuff and other
times I just need to get her to school or finish checking out at
But right now I have the choice to stop what I am doing and
comfort her. I know that it feels good to release emotion
when someone is holding you. And I know it feels great to be
Staying present for this type of outburst can be
challenging. It is not easy to hear her sob. My discomfort
urges me to ignore her behavior or tell her to stop.
But those big cries are begging for attention. And if the
crying isn't acknowledged, a tantrum might not be far behind.
In either situation she is just asking for validation. Can
you allow me to cry instead of trying to fix it? Can you
accept me instead of telling me to be different?
A full 10 minutes passes before Camryn's cries slow down.
I quietly say, "Can I do anything to help you?" She shakes
her head no and rests on me for awhile longer. Eventually she
jumps down and picks up the sticker book. She looks at the
ripped one with a smile and asks, "Could I have a piece a
tape? I gotta get back to fixing this thing."
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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