Tough Guy

My toddler has only one speed: sprinting. He insists on wearing crocs, and as you might imagine, giant rubber shoes trip him up pretty frequently. Then he wants to wear socks and he’s slipping and sliding across the wood floors with far less grace than Tom Cruise. Then he wants to be barefoot and rams his toe into the coffee table. He throws things, and then steps on those things. He runs while looking at a race car in his hand and plows into furniture. He squirms around in his chair and falls out. He spills his milk, and then slips in it. He winds up to throw something at me, and hits himself in the face. The only places he doesn’t fall are the places we have padded with child safety precautions.

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Icing a split lip with a popsicle

Jackson loves to play and run around, so if he falls and cries, he is really hurt. He would much rather jump up and shout “I’m OK!” and keep running, so if he bursts into tears, he is in a bad way. It might seem like it happens a lot, because he does have a painful accident several times a day, but if you watch him you’ll see that he falls hard and often. He’s an active kid and it happens.

Where *I* get upset, is when people tell him to stop crying. Walk it off. Be a big boy. Boys don’t cry. You’re fine.

First, if your daughter fell and cried, would you tell her to stop? And if you would, why? My kid is tough. Not because he’s a boy, or because we’ve raised him to hide his feelings and shake off bloody knees. He’s tough because I’ve seen him get an injury that would bring tears to my eyes and really try to keep it together because he wants to keep playing. I don’t feel that he cries too often or cries for attention (when he has fallen down- he has cried for attention in other situations). If someday we decide he is throwing a fit when he falls just to get our attention, then the problem isn’t with him, it’s with his parents who aren’t giving him the focus he needs on a regular basis. This is harder now that we have another child, but we still share blame if his tears are a reaction to us being distracted.

Why would you tell a child that has hurt themselves not to cry? Not to seek comfort and a healing kiss? Do the tears and wails of my pained child disturb you? Then perhaps you should remove yourself to a place where there are no children, because we are in the middle of a booboo crisis and I am assessing the need for stitches. And seriously, if my son is hurt and embarrassed, do you think tell him to “man up” is going to improve his mood? He is going to hear “you are a baby and I don’t want to hear you” or “your emotions are shameful, get over it”. That’s what I hear, anyway.

Not only should he be allowed to cry, but I hope he comes running to me for comfort until he’s at least 35. I will absolutely stop everything to scoop him up and kiss that bloody lip. I’m his mother, and that’s what I’m here for. Food, shelter, comfort. Soon he will succumb to the pressures of society telling him that boys do not cry, and he’ll bottle it all up. He won’t snuggle up to me when he’s feeling sick, or tell me when he’s sad or worried. My kisses won’t heal his bumps and bruises anymore. And then I will cry.

I have seen all the men in Jack’s life cry, so I hope he grows up with a healthy balance of emotions. Mostly, they cry during impassioned speeches, when eulogizing the family pet, or any movie with Sandra Bullock (hi Dad). I hope the men who surround Jackson show him that men can be tough AND shed a tear when they’re hurt, sad, or when Sandy teaches that guy to play football.

People cry when they are hurt, and if you tried to put your bottom teeth through your lip (Thursday) or fell out of your chair (Saturday and Sunday), you’d probably feel better if you shed a few tears. Think of your kid crying as the equivalent to the release you’d feel if you let fly like Mussolini from the balcony when you jammed your toes into the high chair or stepped on a Lego. They need to let it out, and so do you.

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