It’s that time of year. The warm weather spells a deathknell for all sorts of fun for our family. Warm weather means blisters. Lots of them. Warm weather means the carefree running around that the boys and I enjoy in the cold must be once again shelved until the winter months return. When it’s 90 degrees, even walking through the parking lot causes blisters.
I can handle it. I know my limitations. I know when to say “no I can’t do that” – even if I really want to. I know how to be okay with being different. I know that it made me stronger – even if it hurt in the process. I know how to compartmentalize disappointment and pain. I’ll survive.
But Jack and Will are 7 and 5. And they can’t yet. Their little hearts and minds are not equipped to handle a world in which they have to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else be full of life. They will learn all the things I already know. They are learning. But these are lessons that most 5 and 7 year olds don’t have to learn. These are lessons that 5 and 7 year olds shouldn’t have to learn. This is not akin to telling your child that not every kid can be an NFL quarterback because the talent isn’t there. It’s telling him he’s never even going to get the chance to try.
Tonight I had to cut some blisters on Jack’s feet. Really painful ones. Our blisters are not the same as yours. Water rushes in to fill the trauma of even minuscule friction and they will grow to the size of saucers if you don’t cut them. And for reasons too lengthy to detail, I couldn’t get one of them. It took me about ten minutes. Ten minutes of Jack crying and screaming because that was the only way he could cope. Each time I couldn’t get it, I held him close and told him we didn’t have to cut it tonight. And each time, he looked at me through his sobs and said “no mom, I can do it.” We finally did, through my tears and his. And as I fished out the bandaid, I told him how brave he was. And he said “but I cried. That means I wasn’t brave.” Because clearly some dipshit kid had told him that.
What. The. Hell.
Look, I come from a family of criers. We have happy tears and sad ones. Painful ones and joyful ones. But we have them. A lot. And we embrace them. So I quietly quelled my rage, resisting every impulse in my body to find this kid and give him a piece of my mind, and I took Jack’s little face in my hands. I wiped away the layers of tears and snot. I stared at his beautiful freckled face and told him that tears do not negate courage. Bravery can be as grandiose as slaying the dragon. It can be as noble as giving up your life for someone else.
But more often than not, it is simply accepting that your body or mind or heart is overwhelmed by the pain. Or the beauty. Or the loneliness. Or the love.
Sometimes bravery is simply blinking through the the tears and saying “no mom, I can do it” even if you don’t think you can.
So I beg you – don’t teach your children that tears are a sign of weakness. For the love of all that’s holy, do not tell them big boys or girls don’t cry. Teach them tears are a sign of courage. That they bear witness, more eloquently than words ever could, to the capacity we have to endure that which we cannot bear.