April 14th, 2011

Big Boys Do Cry

Linda Kennard

Let’s face it: culturally, it’s not cool for men to cry, and I’m supposed to be raising men here, right? So every time C&T shed a tear, should I tell them to dry up as part of their manhood training? I mean, my boys’ tears have tapered over the years, but at age 12, their waterworks are still flowing.

Sometimes their tears make me go “aw” and other times they just irritate me. When Clyde lost it because he dropped his last (tiny) bite of Popsicle on the garage floor, my response—which I would say was the right response—was instinctive: “Suck it up, big boy!” Likewise, when Tanner teared up at school because he got a C- on his science quiz, I told my little man to “Keep it together,” adding that he’d better be careful at school. “You’re a boy,” I told him, “and, wrong or right, the fact is, crying isn’t cool.”

But in some situations, I think crying is cool. Last summer, I was exploring Santa Fe with C&T on a windy day. The dust in the air was stinging my eyes, so when we left Lorenzo Chapel, and I saw Clyde’s watery eyes, I asked if his eyes were stinging, like mine. He said, “Uh, ya,” but later confessed that his eyes weren’t watering because of the dust. “It’s just that the chapel was so beautiful, Mom.” I don’t want him to stop shedding those kind of tears, do I? Isn’t it okay to tear up because something is beautiful or profound or touching—even if you’re a man-in-training?

Surely there are at least a few good reasons to cry—gender be damned! I made the terrible mistake last year of subjecting C&T to Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I saw PG-13 on the DVD, read “some thematic content,” and blindly rushed in without knowing anything about the movie. C&T were devastated afterward, and Tanner approached me in private. With tears in his eyes, he said, “Maybe global warming is a good thing. Maybe people are just too mean, and we’re not even supposed to be here anymore.” I regretted subjecting him to the movie but was touched by his empathy. Am I messing up his manly-man training by comforting him when he tears up at the thought of someone else’s suffering?

I don’t think so, but there’s still a catch: “Real men don’t cry,” and I don’t want to mislead C&T. I don’t want them thinking that crying—even when justified—is safe in front of just anyone. Because it’s not. Not for men. So I guess that in addition to coaching them on good reasons to cry, I also have to teach my boys to consider their audience, to cry only with family or their nearest friends. I don’t want my soon-to-be-men shedding their watery pearls before swine, you know what I mean?

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This Weeks Tip

Need to remove chewing gum off of skin? (Dont’ even ask why we had to learn this trick!) Try Peanut Butter. Does the trick, and the kids think it’s hilarious. (note: if allergies are an issue, we would guess that Soy Butter or Sun Butter would work just as well,—though we haven’t attempted this in our test kitchen yet. And *hopefully* we won’t have another occasion to.)