My little boy is sensitive and kind. He is quick to love, but is also quick to have his feelings hurt. I try to always speak to him in calm, gentle tones, but occasionally I slip and raise my voice. When this happens, he will literally crumble before my eyes. “Sorry you yelled,” he’ll say as tears swim in his eyes.
Some days Ben’s tolerance level for life is much higher and very little will faze him. But every so often he’ll have a day where he is just extra emotional. Saturday was one of those days. Maybe it’s because it was the day after Halloween and he was tired from all of the excitement (and sugar) from the night before. Maybe it’s because one of the players on his soccer team was tormenting his teammates by hugging each one too tightly and generally causing mayhem. Whatever the reason, Ben was having one of his “quick to cry” days.
I think we’ve all experienced the sensation of feeling the tears come on and trying to fight them back, but finally succumbing to our body’s intense need to let the emotions pour out. As my high school English teacher used to say, "Our bodies betray us." I remember certain moments as a child when sadness, anger, or frustration would overtake me and I would find myself in a state of tears, and, as much as I would try to stop their flow, to control my breathing, my body would rack with sobs, and the crying would have to run it's course. As an adult, I am much better able to control my emotions, but there are still times when tears spring to the surface. I truly believe that Ben hates crying, but his emotions are always right there, just under the surface. Most days he can control them. Some days he cannot. I have written more about his intense emotions here. On the days when the tears just have to come out, I try to remember how I felt as a child when my body was racked with emotion. I try to remember and be there for him.
Ben’s response to his emotions has changed over time. When he was a baby, he would scream, seemingly for hours on end. We called this his “red Ben” stage. We often could not figure out the cause of his intense crying spurts, but I always got the sense that he was overwhelmed by his world. He would screw his eyes shut so that he wouldn’t have to look at the world around him. During this time, I would rock him, hold him tight, and soothe him until he would eventually calm down. When he got a little older, as tears would pour down his face, he would name his emotion. “I’m crying…” he would say, often sounding as surprised as we were at his quick change of emotion. Now, often as he cries, he gives us a running dialogue through his tears of exactly why he is crying. “I’m crying because I want my mommy and daddy…” And, almost always, after his crying jag, he will apologize for his tears.
And so it was during his soccer game on Saturday. The team was standing on the field, waiting for the kickoff, and suddenly tears started pouring down Ben’s face. This was the first time he had cried all season. As the other team kicked the ball, players running around him, Ben stood in the middle of the field and continued to sob. Finally, the coach let Ben run to us on the sidelines. I pulled him on my lap, and, as the tears poured down his face, he breathed in deeply as we had practiced, in through his nose like he was smelling a flower, and out through his mouth to blow out the candle. As we sat and watched his team chase the ball, slowly the tears subsided. A minute later he looked up at me and simply said, “I love you Mommy,” And, with that, he jumped off my lap, ran on the field, back into the game.