My daughter watched me burst into tears yesterday.
It started in the morning when I connected my new printer and couldn’t get it to work. It was incredibly frustrating but I didn’t despair. I still had options. After uninstalling and reinstalling the software on my laptop, I was able to print wirelessly. I did a little happy dance and thought about buying a lottery ticket.
That afternoon, I prepped for homework. No, not my homework. My kids’ homework. They’re 5 and 6. I don’t remember even having homework until junior high (now apparently called middle school) and by that time my parents had already forgotten everything they learned in high school and were completely incapable of helping me (or so they claimed). I also don’t remember anyone warning me about this when I was pregnant. You went on and on about the trials of potty training and not forgetting to leave money from the tooth fairy (and to take the tooth – darn it!) but you glossed right over how I’d have to coach them through worksheets, book reports and projects – in kindergarten.
I like to be prepared so I picked a bunch of photos to print for my daughter’s “All About Me” poster so that she could work on it when she got home. For no apparent reason other than it hates me, my printer suddenly stopped responding to my laptop. I had 15 minutes before I needed to pick up my kids from school and her project (due the next day, of course) depended on photos or else her teacher and class would have to rely on the whimsical drawings of a 5 year old to tell them All About Me, uh, I mean her. For some ego-driven reason that I have yet to delve into, that was unacceptable to me.
After I picked the kids up from school, I tried again. My daughter watched as I begged and pleaded with the computer. She watched me frantically Google Why can’t I print photos for my daughter’s All About Me poster which is due tomorrow!!!!!!! She listened as I mumbled and struggled to hold back the best curse words and settled instead for PG-rated replacements (what the frig! are you freaking kidding me? ay dios mio! for the love of guacamole!).
I’m pretty sure I was on the verge of hyperventilating when my precious baby girl said, “Mommy, I feel bad for you when you feel like this.”
That just pushed me over the edge and I began to sob. I literally put my head in my hands and wailed. “Thank you baby,” I tearfully replied and thought about how painful it was for me to watch her struggle to write her name, put on tights and twirl spaghetti. I knew exactly how she felt.
Something about her kind empathy made it possible for me to let it all out. I could feel the frustration reach its peak and flow out of my body, my shoulders shaking with release.
“Are you crying?” she asked, incredulous. Then she laughed. At me, not with me. I felt better almost instantly.
“Yes baby. I cry lots of times,” I replied.
“You do?” She eyed me suspiciously but then said sincerely, “I cry when I get mad too.”
Let’s be clear, I don’t hide my emotions from my kids. They know when I’m happy, when I’m angry, when I’m frustrated and when I’m blue. The entire neighborhood knows when the dog pees on my daughter’s rug or when my son shoots me with his rubber band gun. I actually pondered when they were babies if a kid could be hugged and kissed too much. But other than when my grandpa and sister died, I haven’t really cried in front of them. The most they’ve seen is me and their father tearing up during
Super Bowl commercials deeply poignant, intellectual foreign films.
Feeling much better, I sat up a little taller and took a deep breath. I cleared my mind and asked God to send me some serenity and maybe something I hadn’t thought to do. The only other thing I could think of (besides throwing the laptop against the wall, which is always a viable option) was to restart the laptop and printer. Voila! It worked!
As she worked on her poster, I wondered if we should talk about my meltdown, maybe make it into a bigger discussion about self-esteem, self-compassion or some other self-something. But it seemed to me that the moment stood for itself. Big girls do cry.