“Stop Crying”

“Stop crying” was one of the most repeated things I heard in my childhood — definitely the most repeated “correction” I ever heard.

I was constantly crying too much. And constantly in trouble for it. All parent/teacher conferences were like, “She’s doing great at x, y, and z…but she cries all the time…”

The only time I ever was sent to the office was for crying too hard in class. I remember very vividly my 3rd grade teacher more or less dragging me down the hallway while I outright openly sobbed and wailed. I could not get ahold of myself. I was also terrified of what would happen.

(What happened is that the vice-principal listened to me unintelligibly sob out everything that had gone wrong that day. I can literally still list the reasons to this day, that’s how profound an impact this had on me! All of which were simply normal kid stuff, but it was so big to me at the time. And she just hugged me the entire time and listened to me and let me cry and said soothing and sweet things to me. I am so grateful for that ending to this memory.)

When I was 10, we moved states. I decided I would no longer be “the crybaby”. I memorized 3 jokebooks and became a “funny kid” instead and stuffed as much of the crying down inside of myself as I could.

I told this story proudly for the following decade and a half.

It took until probably 2 years ago to see my little 10 year old self with the grace that I wish some adult had spoken to me with. To see that it wasn’t some sign of great maturity nor moral fortitude that I overtly learned how to stuff my emotions. It took until I worked at the job I have now, because I realised that if there was a child that age in the schools I work at that was crying all the time, somebody would have put in a referral to us! And we would have gone and tried to figure out what was going on for that child.

There was no one big thing for me as a child, I wasn’t hiding any big secret sad trauma. It was just a lot of little things, trying to live in a world that felt like a lot of Too Much—sensorily, emotionally, socially—without many coping strategies to do so.

The “crybaby” me and the me who learned to distract herself away from anything she was feeling both still live inside me. I can feel different times when one or the other of them is trying to run the show. I can do my best to honor where they are coming from, and to decide how to care for both of them as I move forward.