The other day, the low point in my child care dilemma, I sat on the ground in the living room and cried in front of the twins. It was the first the first time they’ve ever seen me cry (which I figure isn’t bad for 5 year old twins). And it was one of those strangely translucent truthful moments where everyone, for a moment, is their true self. Olivia stood in front of me with her hands at her side, wide-eyed, perplexed. Josephine, with her fingers in her ears, eyes welling up with tears begged me to stop. Violet, oblivious, played around our little troubled group, jabbering and singing.

There was a strange relief in being myself in front of my kids… not the Parent, Perfect Mother, Patient Listener, just Rachael the human being in all my flawed and weepy imperfection. They wanted to know why I was crying and I said that I was having a hard day and just needed fresh air. To five year olds, this was obviously sufficient information.

We gathered ourselves up and went on an outing to an indoor play gym. At one point, I looked over and Josephine was crying and watching me from a distance. When I ran to her and gathered her in my arms she said, “Mommy, please don’t ever cry again.” And being Mommy, I said “I promise.”

I grew up with a Mom that let it all hang out, that shared the intimate details of her travails (marital, monetary, or otherwise). So it is that I would be the Mother who protects and shelters, who would rather burden herself than her lovelies.

But in trying so hard to be perfect, I’ve missed a kind of loveliness — this shelter that one has in the arms of puzzled crying five year olds joined with Mommy, hugging and listening to the happy babbling toddler, waiting for the light to break through, waiting for rescue.


12 Responses to “Shelter”

  1. 1 mama featheren
    January 20, 2007 at 11:30 am

    I think you did the right thing.

    Here’s the deal: kids know. Whether you try to protect them or not, they KNOW when you’re that upset (excuse the comparison, but kind of like dogs know, too) and I personally think it might be a little less scary for them when you acknowledge your feelings. It also shows them it’s OK to be upset, and to show your emotions, even when they’re not “polite” or “appropriate.”

    The other night my brother (who, at almost 50, has a 3-yr-old, a 2-yr-old AND an 8 mo. old daughter) was trying desperately to assuage his youngest babe from her tears and rock her to sleep. His 3-yr-old, watching from her own bed across the room piped up, “It’s not easy being a daddy sometimes.”

    Sometimes the greatest empathy comes from the littlest ones among us.

  2. January 20, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    I’m impressed that you made it five whole years.

    While I would prefer to be strong in front of my children (and everyone else come to think of it) I don’t think it is bad for our kids to know that we cry too.

  3. January 20, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    I agree with Sarah. By crying, you show your kids that you not only cry just like they do (because you’re human, after all) but that it’s okay to be in touch with your feelings.

  4. January 20, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    I know how you feel. I try to to shield my children from my tears too because I don’t want to confuse or scare them. But it sounds like you’ve raised some great little girls there.

  5. 5 callie
    January 20, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    We just went through something similar. Have you checked Sittercity.com? I looked briefly for you for the Bellingham area, and there are several sitters aged 25 or over, who can provide part time care- either college students, or moms. i think some might even travel to your home for you. Be sure to spend the ten dollars for the background check, it’s worth it. Good luck!

  6. January 21, 2007 at 7:29 am

    Wow, you have amazing self control not to have cried in front of them all this time. But I think we all have to let it out now and again.

  7. January 21, 2007 at 9:26 am

    I had a mother who needed more protecting than she protected me. I too swore never to make my children think that I was more vulnerable than they are. Still, I do cry in front of them — I have had no choice as the world falls in on me or the crap just piled up too high. I am not proud of it, but I think as you do — that there is an element of my humanity, of my existence as a person rather than just as a mother — that comes through at those moments. And the children have the chance to give you something back — which I think children need to do.

    You are being amazing and strong. This situation is horrible, but I know you will work it out.

  8. 8 deb
    January 21, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    You sound overwhelmed and sad. It’s okay for your kids to see you as human, not the supermom. I can’t believe you made it five years without crying, I have a hard time getting through a week without tears. It will get better, it’s just so hard when you’re in it. Take care.

  9. January 22, 2007 at 8:36 am

    I think the important thing is that not only did you show them that you are a human who cries, you also showed them that one can move beyond sadness to solve problems. But I am an emotional black hole, so I guess I can’t really talk.

  10. January 22, 2007 at 10:28 am

    5 whole years?!?! I’m beyond impressed. I try to protect my girls too, but I’ve found what you have. Those sweet chubby fingers wiping away my tears are as good as gold. Especially when coupled with that same, sweet, compassionate smile that I recognize from my own face that says “I know it seems bad, but we’ve got each other. And some crayons. What else is there?”

    Don’t get me started on childcare woes. I’ll climb on my soapbox and never come down. Just know I feel your pain.

  11. 11 Swampgrrl
    January 22, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    Like Francesca, I had a mother who needed a lot of protection. I think I was five when she first confessed to me her suicidal ideations. Not good.

    Kids should of course know that their parents aren’t always happy people and the world often demands tears. Anything less can give the impression of parent-as-superhuman. But I think it’s one thing to cry in front of your kids because you’ve had a bad day or the world is not feeling like a particularly just place, and another to make the parent/child relationship one about the parent airing all of her/his needs, worries, anxieties to the young kids. Those conversations seem perhaps more appropriate for adult parent/child exchanges.

  12. January 22, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    5 years? Wow! Not even when something fell on your foot? Or when an oil change cost $250?

    Me neither.

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