So, I’m a crier. Always have been. Puppy videos, weddings, commercials, Upworthy stories about ‘Wonder Woman’; momentous occasions, everyday events, happy or sad– I’m an equal opportunity crier. If it’s a big feeling, it is usually greeted with tears. And it’s only increased since I became a mom.
I used to try to keep the tears inside, especially in mixed company. I didn’t want to embarrass myself, or show the spiky, cruel world how ooey-gooey I am on the inside. Then I got a piece of advice I carry with me to this day from the most trusted of sources: Tyra Banks in cycle 5 of America’s Next Top Model.
You may recall (because who hasn’t seen all the early cycles twelve times each?) that Tyra advises one of the models during her CoverGirl photo shoot that if she feels like she’s going to cry, to just cry instead of holding it in. Because every photo they take thereafter will look strained and like she’s trying not to cry. Tyra advised, take a minute, let the tears flow over, let the emotion out, like opening a valve to let a little of the pressure out. You wipe up the tears, maybe redo your eyeliner, take a deep breath and carry on with the job.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve utilized this advice. I encourage you to try it! Instead of trying to swallow that lump in your throat and distract yourself from the emotion, just give into it, even a little. It moves the feeling through, or dissolves it a bit at least, and you can breathe a little easier and go about your business instead of being distracted by the emotion. You don’t have to sob to let the pressure out just a bit.
Feelings shouldn’t rule you, but they shouldn’t always be pushed away either. The more we let them be what they are, the less we try to control every aspect of ourselves, the more forgiving and generous we can be both to ourselves and each other.
I needed to remember all of this today because my son started a part-time nanny share. He is two and has never had anyone watch him outside of family or friends. We’ve been very fortunate to have so many willing friends and family that we could get away with this for so long. Though noting that the well is slowly drying up on that capital we had banked by him being so adorable, my husband and I agreed it was time to look into other options as my work is picking up.
Because the season of parenting is changing. I can feel it the way you feel a crisp breeze move through you at the end of September, the first hint of Autumn.
On his second birthday, he woke up a different kid. Or maybe I woke up and saw him with clearer eyes. His chatting, his jokes, his strong, capable little body carrying him up stairs and packing as many toys as his little arms could hold.
He is no longer a baby. He does not need me in the same way. He, in fact, needs so much more than me. He needs to explore the world and play with other kids and learn that it’s okay that other people take care of him.
And I need to let him. I need to let him try to put his shoes on himself even though it takes approximately one hundred years. I need to let him jump off the lowest step so he not only gains confidence that he can, but that he learns it’s important to try even if you fall. Mama will still be there to pick you up.
When I left him with the nanny and his friend this morning, Tyra’s words came back to me and I wept. I mean, I held it together until I was in the safety of my car so as not to freak him (or the nanny) out. I wept not because I thought it was going to be horrible or a mistake, but because a mother’s grief is constant.
It started when he was born. This amazing person I made was finally here after so much waiting, but I wept because I couldn’t keep him safe in the same way anymore. It feels absurd to say out loud, but it was this feeling that he was no longer mine. That I had to share him with everyone, even his dad!
And now as he gets older, and not only walks, but runs as fast as he can to explore and search and play, that he makes jokes and has quirks and personality that I never could have molded or shaped if I tried, I see that he clearly only belongs to himself. That he only ever belonged to himself.
That is a mother’s grief. To create, house, birth, nurture, watch this beautiful life, but holding the knowledge in your heart and mind that they are of you, but not for you. They are for themselves. It’s beautiful and gutting.
Tyra would be totally supportive of me crying in this coffee shop, right?
By the way, I am totally unnerved to even be in a coffee shop, drinking a latte, eating avocado toast, and writing on my laptop in the middle of the day. Like a person. A writer person. A writer and a mom and a person.
I used to not know how to be a person in the world with a child. Now I almost don’t know how to be a person without him. What do I do with my hands? I don’t have a huge bag with a jacket and sunscreen and cars and wipes and snacks. Well, I do have cars and cheerios in my purse because, I mean, that’s just practical.
I just got an update from the nanny, my son is happily playing at the park. He’s doing great. I’m so proud.
And now I’m crying again.
Are you crier? What were the big momentous shifts for you as parents? What are the next ones to be looking out for?