When they’re in pain, they cry. The tears come flowing pretty quickly, and roll down their soft chubby cheeks. We reach down to lift them up, and they bury their wet face in our dry shoulders – sharing a bit of snot also. (I recently learned that we produce “tears” inside our eyes as well, which is why that snot seems to flow so much easier while the waterworks are coming.)
But it’s not only when they’re in pain. I’m not sure if it’s unique to having a home full of girls, or just simply having 3 kids under 6 at the same time, but crying sure seems to happen more than I remember growing up. When their feelings are hurt, they cry. When they think their feelings should be hurt, they cry. When they’re frightened, they cry. When they think they’re expected to be crying, they cry. When they experience the consequences of bad behavior, they cry. But there’s one type of crying my children don’t seem to have developed yet, and daddy probably isn’t going to be a great example in this category.
During the most incredible times in life, there are some people who respond to the amazing impact and transformational moments of overwhelming emotion – by shedding tears. During the birth of their child, or standing at the altar on their wedding day, or winning a game-show on national television…..:) I’ll admit, I may have gotten some dust in my eye during one or more of these events, but it’s nothing near what I’ve experienced sharing life with my wife and her family.
I remember a few years ago, when I’d saved all year to surprise my wife with a new laptop for Christmas. Our holiday budget was nothing close to what was needed for this, and so she was blown away by the unexpected gift. Her love language is gift-giving, and the wave of love she felt produced tears, and our oldest daughter was caught in the crossfire of confusion, wondering why mommy was so sad about daddy’s gift.
My kids still remember the first major time they experienced such tears close-up. Their uncle had come home from far away to surprise “Nana” on her birthday. He was sitting at the kitchen table, and she was just coming into the house, not expecting anything out of the ordinary. As soon as she saw him sitting their, she let out a high-pitched scream and the tears came flooding out. She was excited and overwhelmed to be able to see her son, whom she missed as he was currently living pretty far away. But our daughters heard the scream, and saw her tears, and began to be very confused, even shedding some tears themselves. Mommy and daddy quickly explained why Nana was crying, and that everything was okay. Even today, when they see someone tear up because of something positive, they’ll say, “Just like when Nana cried!” with a smile.
Our culture doesn’t embrace tear-ful emotions very much. Even in the world of Christianity, we embrace verses like “He will wipe every tear from their eye.” (Revelation 21:4a) But if we take a moment to think about it, we recognize this isn’t a statement against tears – but a promise about the Hope we have in Christ, and the promise that He will forever be our comforter. Instead of teaching our kids to “toughen up”, and “dry up those tears”, we’re called to encourage them to live authentically in pain or in joy. Yes, we want to be self-controlled, not tossed back and forth by emotional winds that change like the seasons (or even faster). But at the same time, there’s something precious in the ability to express the emotions we’re feeling – whether we’re hurt and in need of comforting…..or we’re experiencing overwhelming joy and can’t contain or express what we feel.
Of course…we still have to handle those moments where they know tears will get mommy and daddy to bend to their will….:)