Thursday, August 17, 2006

Big Girls Do Cry

My recent bout of blue mood has me a bit worried. I am not concerned that I'm sliding into depression. After figuring out the root of my recent blahs, I'm back on more stable footing. But I am worried about the future. I am worried about what happens when my daughter figures out that I am a crier.

I am a very tearful person. I cry in response to a wide range of emotional stimuli, from sadness and frustration, to anger, nostalgia, and that particular annoying-but-compelling tug on the heartstrings that occurs during the string and woodwind-heavy moments of certain television programs and movies. This last reason for tears is incredibly embarrassing to admit, but it is inescapable. The sappy music gets me every time. I sat through the all but unwatchable Robin Williams vehicle What Dreams May Come, practically sobbing the whole time. I was not emotionally connecting with this piece of trash, and I kept thinking "this movie sucks, why am I crying so much?" Near the end of the movie I realized it was the music that had opened the floodgates and was keeping them flowing through the whole, sucky movie.

I know that many people cry (and cry easily). I can imagine readers commenting, "Me too! I cry ALL the time." "I'm the soggiest, sappiest, cryingest girl I know!" But I'm betting you don't cry as easily or as much as I do. I have cried in front of every single boss I've ever had. (did I mention I cry when I'm nervous or frustrated?) My friends, family, carpool, coworkers, strangers on the street - all have seen me cry. A person's tone can make me cry. I once watched a coworker chastise an administrative assistant and had to walk away to hide my tears. If I'm hoping someone can meet me for a walk and coffee and it doesn't work out, I well up. Ada wakes up after a lousy 20 minute nap? Tears flow. It happened Sunday. I cry in public, in private, with strangers and close friends. If you are sad and tell me about your woes, I'll cry foryou. Really, sometimes I think I should rent myself out to appear at funerals. A designated mourner, with business cards: "crier for hire".

At some point I looked up lability, and found a reference to involuntary emotional expression disorder. It freaked the crap out of me, in part because it is associated with ALS, which my grandmother had and which sucks spikey dog turds. Realistically, I don't think I'm developing ALS - I have been like this for as long as I can remember (and I don't have uncontrolled laughing fits), but let's just say that I cry a lot more than most people. But I do cry easily, and often tear up when I don't feel the level of emotion that would warrant tears. That is one of the most frustrating parts - that I cry when I don't feel sad, angry or frustrated. But something in my brain seems to have a hair-trigger for tears, going off easily and without warning.

Crying is something I have struggled with for a long time. I went to a therapist to see if she could help me rein it in. Why do I well up even when I don't feel consciously upset? How can I stop doing it? She didn't have much to offer, nor did my mother's psychologist friend, who suggested I pinch myself when I felt tears coming. Despite laughing at the suggestion, when desperate enough I tried it. It never worked, because by the time I felt the sting the tears were already there. The suggestion to "think of something happy" was so ludicrous that I didn't even try. If the tears are PRE-conscious, how can thinking something post-tear help stave them off? Or maybe she meant I should constantly be thinking of fluffy bunnies frolicking in a field of heather?

Many people, especially women, think they are unusually easily moved to tears, but mostly such declarations are like people telling me how bad their vision is. My myopia correction is -11.5, plus I'm astigmatic. My eyes are way worse than yours, trust me (unless you are my friend KJ, in which case I recognize our sisterhood of the crappy eyes.) Your eyes may be imperfect, but mine suck. Comparisons of tearfulness feel like this, with people saying how much they cry, and then me realizing that I still cry way more than they do.

In the past, my tearfulness was just my own problem. But now I have a daughter and I worry how my damp response will impact her. What will it mean to see mom cry so much? Will she resent my behavior, think (like a male friend once admitted to me) that I am trying to manipulate people with my flow? Will she think this is normal and purposefully emulate me? Since my tears are so instantaneous, so unplanned, I don't know how to keep her from experiencing them. I wonder already if her baby tantrums are expressions of her experience seeing me cry.

I know we all worry that our idiosyncrasies and interactional quirks will impact our children. I also know that being a crier is no worse than being so emotionally battened down that I can't express my love for my child. Biking with friends one evening last week we were talking about how we express frustration and anger. Al said she grew up avoiding conflict and pushing down any negativity. It took years with a passionate, volatile partner to be comfortable expressing any negative emotion. G talked about stoicism and buddhism and their goal of a disengagement from all emotional response. He described the idea that one could let emotion and experience flow over and not through you. I don't know that (even with meditation and other practice) that I could stem the flow of my physical response to emotional stimuli. Even more, I am not sure I really want that. I want to feel, and I doubt that I could train myself from a physical response without training away the emotional response. Even though I don't always notice the connection between the two, I believe that whatever triggers the tears is just a more sensitive response to outside stimuli than that noticed by my conscious mind.

I recognize that I can not change this part of me. But how do I deal with my fears about how this will impact Ada? Do other people worry about this kind of thing, whether it be tears or some other personal quirk that maybe seemed harmlessly odd or interesting before kids, but now takes on larger meaning? I'd love to hear your thoughts. And don't worry, it won't make me cry (at least not more than I already do).


  1. This post came on the right day for me (I was crying already when I started it).

    I'm most afraid of passing on my fear of bees. I try to be very subtle when I abandon my children and run away.

  2. Man, that movie was AWFUL. I think I was so incredulous at how bad it was that it didn't move me. But I can think of other movies where I felt similar to the way you felt -- "This is so stupid and silly, so why am I crying?!?"

    I am not a big crier, but my husband often cries during movies. He cried when Nemo's dad thought Nemo was dead. He cried when the woolly mammoth was reminded of the bad things that happened to his family in Ice Age. He's tearful when Han Solo shows up to save the day. He cries at happy movie moments and sad movie moments. I always figure that it must be really tough to be a man who is so easily moved to tears, because that's so "unmasculine."

    But real life doesn't move him to tears as much as movies do -- with one exception: he's always deeply moved by stories of redemption and kindess. For some reason, they make him cry.

    In any case, it will probably bug your daughter at times, and I'll bet she'll tell you so. But deep down, she will know that it is an intrinsic part of who you are. And for that reason, she'll love you for it, and not in spite of it.

  3. Excellent point by Blue Moon Mama. It's not so much the crying, it's how you FEEL about the crying. If you can laugh it off or just say "here come mama's tears again!", maybe she'll shrug them off too.

    I hope I don't sound like the person who told you to "just think of something happy."

  4. Children are amazingly resilient. They quickly learn that the world is full of a variety of types of people, and Mom and Dad are no different in that respect. I expect your daughter will just accept your occasional teary spell as, "that's just how Mom is," and it won't be a big deal to her.
    To Love, Honor and Dismay

  5. Plate 'o shrimp -- I was just this morning thinking about what being more tearful means to me. (I started welling up thinking about a movie I saw this weekend, Quinceanera, which was worth the tears.)

    I'm going through some hormonal changes lately that have made me a lot more tearful -- not so much as you describe, I admit, but I cry a little several times a day now. \

    I don't cry much around my kids, and tend to go off somewhere private if I think I will -- but I think it's probably like any other aspect of mom: if it's just always there and doesn't interfere with love and care, it's not going to be a problem, the kid is just going to take it as part of how things are.

  6. I think of myself as a crier, but, you're right, you got me. No comparison.

    I worry - this may sound weird - that WonderBaby will inherit my overwhelming tendency to worry.

  7. I'm terrified that my son will develop my rapid, excessive mood changes.


  8. "You need a tissue" and she runs off. That happens around here semi regularly and I can't say I know how I feel about it. My daughter will be two next month and already she 'deals with my crying'. She deals with it so clearly and lovingly it definitely eats me up.. but is it with shame for myself that she knows the behavoir so well or is it with pride that she is so kind and sensistive to the needs of others. Both. As in so many things; remember their capacity can really surprise.

    And speaking of surprise sometimes the 'tissue' comes out of the garbage or out of a colouring book. . uhm thank you honey

  9. Interesting. My wife and I were having a similar conversation about this recently. She's a very emotional woman who wears her heart on her sleeve and bruises easily. She doesn't want to hide it but, at the same time, she doesn't want to pass this trait onto our daughter. The comments left here have been great and will all be taken into consideration. Thanks for sharing, NLG.

  10. I think you're very brave to share this.

  11. Well, still have the crappy vision, at the recent eye doc appt I was a -12.00.

    I will cry at a lot of things, stems a lot from being incredibly shy as a child, very emotional. But I am not close to what you have described. Although after I had Alyssa and my period started again I noticed a marked difference in how emotional I was getting. I went to the doc and she prescribed a lose dose anti-depressant. It did the trick and I was able to go off of it about two months ago. I have felt great since then but the music it still gets me. I just watched the crappy movie on tv and I cried most of the way through it.

  12. I am not a crier. Sometimes I should be crying, but I'm not. However, when I was pregnant, I cried all the time. I had a problem with the bank, and I called to work it out, and ended up crying and telling them I was going to switch banks. The crying made me feel a little betrayed by my emotions - which is exactly how I feel when I blush, which I do all the time (pregnant or not). Sometimes it is because I am uncomfortable, always when I am surprised by something, often when I am revealing something personal, and I worry that I will pass that shyness on to Miles. Or that he will see me blushing and be embarrased himself because of it. Also, I hate answering the phone. Do I have to pretend to be pleased when it rings so I can teach Miles that it isn't a bad thing? Ugh. I worry about these kind of things all the time. (Will I teach Miles to worry about things?) Clearly, I have no answers on this stuff. But great post.

  13. The idea of you crying is so different from how I think of you. I think of you as very strong (not that crying implies weakness) and "dry" as in having a dry sense of humour.

    It seems like you can be a good example to Ada in how you react to a slightly embarrassing, dismaying personal trait. She might not inherit crying from you, but we all have quirky things about ourselves that we have to accept.

    When she sees how graceful you are, and so long as she doesn't feel like she is to blame for you being sad or frustrated or angry and she is secure in knowing that although you are temporarily verklempt, you'll be able to pick yourself up and go on being her strong capable mother, I think she'll find your tears to be an endearing quality.

  14. Thanks for writing this thoughtful post. I used to be a pretty major crier--it's as if life's normal twists and turns still had the potential to surprise me.

    Then, a couple years ago, my sister died in a car accident. After many months of crying to everyone everywhere, I found I could schedule my crying for a certain stretch every day, as I was walking over the Oakland hills from work to day care.

  15. This is a perfect post. Congrats! There is so much to think about.

    Personally I feel that it is wonderful that you cry because that means that you feel. You must be extremely empathetic.

    I know it can be embarrassing to be unexplainably crying. I've banned myself from dog shows for this reason.

    Do you think Ada will view you differently because of your tears? I think it is a different perspective of worrying about how crying will impact your daughter. I imagine more people have this fear around little boys being that stereotypically little boys are taught to express themselves without tears. I think your post will have all kinds of thoughts like these racing through my mind for days.

  16. This post is pretty much as close to perfect as they come. I am glad I went back to read it. I personally believe that crying is a wonderful thing.

    I cry very easily at silly commercials and TV movies. But have a hard time crying when most people would have no problem bringing themselves to tears. I was in a terrible relationship where my significant other mocked me for crying when my feelings were hurt. Since then I build walls when I am truly hurt and many times may appear cold or disinterested. I would love to be able to shed a few tears during these times.

    My mother was and still is a crier. I find it touching and endearing. She is the strongest woman I know and I feel as if her tears represent this.

  17. Ditto to every thing you just said... I too have had the exact same crying experiences and seem to cry for no apparent reason. I am crying as I write this because I identify so strongly with you! I too worry about the future and having children that well up as easily as I because I think I inherited my teariness from my mom. I cry to her about wondering why I cry so much and she cries back feeling bad that its all her fault that she gave me this tendency toward worring and crying, and the cycle goes on...

    My advice for you and Ada would be cry if need be, because you know you will- just don't put a guilt trip on yourself for doing so. This is the person you are and she will become the person she is supposed to be. If she cries she cries, if you do its okay, you probably will do some crying together too! You are her mother and she will love you no matter what, I love mine- sometimes even more because she does cry. She is such a good, caring, compassionate person and I am lucky that I cry because I feel like I have turned into the same sort of person. I know Ada will too.

    Thanks for your beautiful post.

  18. You are the first person I have ever been able to relate to this on. People constantly call me sensitive, and I find that soo frustrating! I am a very strong & happy person, but people look at me like I'm delicate and depressed when I cry. I cry for commercials, songs, whenever someone compliments me or anyone else. I cry when I'm happy, sad, frustrated, angry. You name the emotion and I've cried over it. And I never feel as affected by the emotion as the tears make me appear to be. I too have cried in front of every boss, friend and co-worker. A few years ago when my ex-husband and I were going through our seperation, we were seeing a marriage counselor. One of my ex-husbands major complaints in our marriage was how I cried all the time (I cry when things don't really effect me emotionally, imagine how bad it is when they do hurt me!) The marriage counselor finally told him that asking me not to cry is like asking a drunk man not to stagger. Anyway I just wanted to let you know that I'm pretty sure that I cry as much as you, and can't stand it. I swear I would do nearly ANYTHING to stop crying so easily!!! By the way, I have two daughters and I don't think that witnessing their mother's excessive crying has scarred them, or caused them to be the same way as me. Allthough, I do believe that there may be something in our genes that makes us this way. One of my daughters doesn't cry easily at all, the other one is JUST like me. We cry all the time together. Good luck with finding a solution, I will continue the hunt too.

  19. I know crying is normal and healthy, but the bout of tears I just had to deal with in front of a colleague was just lame. The emotion wasn't consciously there and the crying felt really stupid and made us both uncomfortable.

    I started being this way when I was pregnant, and it never went away. As soon as the post-partem tears left, I entered a very stressful period in my life, and even now that everything is good, I can't get myself squared away enough to have predictable responses. My daughter will be fine. But am I unstable? Do I need a therapist? Is this menopause? Is it linked to my bad eyes? What does this mean? It's not just the way I am, as it sounds like it is in your case, and many here. I was "normal" and then I became such a crier I avoided a training seminar last week because I knew the speaker would make me cry in front of my colleagues. This crying is getting in the way of me being able to be myself.

    My daughter is herself whether she's crying or not. How can I get back to that?

  20. I know your post was from about 3 years ago, but I just google searched "why do i cry so easily" and this page came up... I have the EXACT problem as you! I actually just had a meeting with my bosses a couple weeks ago and as we were sitting down I started to cry, because I knew the meeting was to talk about my potential raise and I was nervous. I too have cried in front of all of my bosses, friends, co-workers, family members, random strangers, pets, customers, etc. The list is endless. I always feel like people think I'm to immature to handle things or baby-like. Its a very insecure feeling and I cannot stand it! I was just curios if you've ever found any tips or help?

  21. Tanya - the only advice I have is to avoid stressing yourself out ahead of time and to be honest with people. I tend to talk to people about my tendency to cry in terms of stuttering - it can help people understand that you aren't as upset as you look, but that you cry when nervous or otherwise keyed up. Also, like with people who stutter, it helps me to not have the crying be the focus, so if I can say "hey, I just do this, let's move on" we can all move forward and I can stop tearing up.