Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why don't grown ups cry?

Recently you said to me "Why don't grown ups cry? Why don't you ever cry?"
Amazed, I said "I cry! You've seen me cry."
You said, "Have I?" And again, incredulous, "Have I?"

I have sat down on the floor beside you and sobbed, from tiredness or grief or anger or hunger or because my blood burned with sugar. I have cried from hopelessness, because I am terrible at motherhood, because loving you hurts. Because I used to be one thing, and then when you were born there was a tearing, a splitting, like antarctica calving an iceberg, you split from the continent and I lost a part of myself and I must bear that loss over and over. You have borne witness to two pregnancies, and overfilled I leaked tears. You have seen me cry in public, in cities all over the world, in Paris by the Seine, in London as we crossed the street, in Helsinki, in Hong Kong. I have cried because you have used up all my oxygen with your hunger and your need and your love. I have cried because you would not sleep, would not eat, would not leave, would not stay. I have cried reading you sad stories and watching movies with you on my lap. From love and from pride, from exhaustion of feelings, I have cried.

It is a strange trick of your memory that you have forgotten all this. For the first time I wonder if you have repressed these memories, if you have actively chosen to forget. Or perhaps the mind cannot hold what it cannot process, the impossibility of a mother who melts like snow. Perhaps this is why grown ups don't cry.


  1. Oh, thank you for this entry. I feel so much guilt for crying in front of my (toddler) son - I really needed to read your entry today.

  2. I cried nearly all day a couple of sundays ago because I found out merlin is dying of kidney disease.

    Violet was worried and kept giving me hugs and telling me it was ok. She comforted me in exactly the same way that I comfort her. It was an odd role-reversal.

    I tried to explain to her why I was sad. She went off to talk to merlin and came back saying 'I told merlin not to die. You ok now? You be happy?' which of course made me cry more.

    She went off to play though, confident that she'd solved the problem.

  3. This is an unformed thought but is it that children so young are socialised to associate crying with weakness or distress they block the fact their parents cry. My partner has been teary this past weekend and the children - older teens and near adults - have chosen to be absent rather than watch it. I don't know that it was a conscious decision on their part but they've certainly not been around and when they have, they've been holed up in their rooms. Interesting.

  4. God, I get gulit-racked too when I cry in front of Jethro. I always think I am burdening him with this pressure to cheer mum up - or not cause her to cry in the first place! Then I found him a sweet picture book about a little boy finding his overwrought mum crying over the kitchen sink, and comforting her without judgement, and I feel kinda ok about it. It is not a failing to display your human fallibilty to your child... I tell myself.

  5. Thankyou. This made me cry. And it is beautiful (your post, also, a little bit, the crying).