“I am not crying, I am crying at you.”

November 13, 2013

Notable Stats

Tears per fortnight (TPF) – The number of tears running down a child's face per week. Measured in parts of a trillion.

Crocodile Sympathy Ratio (CSR) – The percentage of tears that are from pain versus the number that are for show or that fall down the face because the child is not sure how to stop crying.

It is a tough balance for parents. With our first born, his cry was like having a fire department in your home. It made our hair stand up all over our bodies, we had to react, to do something dramatic; we had to understand its source. Of course, we had two dogs when he was born, both howled at the moon whenever he cried, so our “basketcase-sleep delirum” factor was exponentially increased with a baby and now apparently, two baby wolves, thrust in our midst.

Over time, you get desensitized to the crying and screaming, not to the point of not even hearing it, but to the point of knowing that not every cry is an emergency. You get perspective, you start to know the different versions of crying, the manipulative “I don’t want to take a nap” cry versus “I just banged my elbow on the sidewalk” cry. If he is crying with his eyes wide open and staring right at you, he probably is working you over. This is called “crying at you.”

But then our daughter came along and she re-defined the art of crying and our tolerance for it (and apparently, our neighbors tolerance too).

When she hit seven months old or so, she went from peacefully going to sleep to screaming herself into a sleep-like coma. She made it clear that the separation was not cool, it was not welcome, and she let us know in no uncertain terms. **** Attachment parents, do not flog us for these comments. ***** After using all the sleep training techniques, we celebrated when her “cry to nap” time dropped down to only 15 minutes. Not bad, we said, some people deal in hours, we rationalized. Or at least, I did.

It was a sign of things to come. Our daughter is the compliant one of the family. She has a high moral compass, she follows rules, she listens to authority, she likes to please. All in all, she is a joy to spend time with.
But she gets her feelings hurt and easily.

She has now mastered the art of “cry stalking.” It is fascinating mix of near hyper-ventilative cryings and following you around like that ex-girlfriend that told you “you cannot love anyone else, ever, ever, forever, ever….” It is challenging enough to be followed by a person under 3 foot 5 inches that weaves between your legs, but the aggravation factor goes up about ten notches when this person is also crying and having a hissy-fit while doing so.

It makes me think about the skills involved. You can cry while running. Think about that for a second. Crying while in a dead sprint for an hour. She can go an hour maybe even two, up stairs, down stairs, indoors, outdoors. She can eat, go to the bathroom, and keep it going. Thank goodness, she does not have our Find My iPhone app at her disposal or she would text us tears all over the city of Hartford, CT.

She wants you to get the message that she is upset, then she wants you to be unable to do anything else at all. Unfortunately for my wife, she is the one that mostly gets that stalking version of our daughter.

What is also amazing is that she can go extended periods of time without uttering a single word, not even a half a word. She makes no attempt to speak English of any kind, or French, or Latin for that matter. She may be the most precise verbal person in our entire household, and she elects to use no words at all. She wants to literally drown you in tears.

Yes, I know, we are the mean ones. Letting a four-year old get into a manipulative trance that forces her to sleepwalk around the home chasing her parents with water works. It is insensitive you say. But once it starts, it is hard to stop in any way, constructively or not. It is like a truck that lost its brakes on a mountain highway. It is only a matter of whether it takes out trees, fences, highway signs or people. It is not “if”, it is “what.”

We explain to her that she needs to talk more, so that people will not ignore her when she is really hurt. We want her feelings to be duly noted and addressed, but if she ends up in the “car alarm noise” category, people are just going to walk on by no matter how loud it is going off.

Nevertheless, we keep working with her. We don’t want to take away her sensitivity to the world, nor her latitude to express it, but reality is in a household of a bunch, you have to also learn etiquette and balance to those expressions to make sure it includes other people’s feeling too. Not easy for a four-year old, but hopefully she will continue to add that skill to her already impressive list of other ones. Otherwise, I am thinking about getting life preservers and a boat for inside the house.

- Doug Glanville

Blog Category: 


Motivational Speaker

Click here to learn more about having Doug speak at your next event!




The Daddy Games

Check out Doug's blog, The Daddy Games.  Click here to read more.