Her tears come quickly. Out of nowhere. They usually burst forth right alongside loud words and a spastic body and a twisted up face. For her, frustration must take many, many exits in its release.
They come every day, I think. Though there's probably been a tear-free day or two here and there, I honestly can't remember a day that didn't include them. Every frustration, every banged knee, every thwarted ambition has the potential to bring them out. Sometimes they are gone just as quickly as they appeared. Sometimes they linger like an oblivious, unwanted house guest.
And I am, as ever, caught between parenting ideals. I want her to be tough. To muster a steely strength that can keep her focused and calm as life throws her the inevitable speed bumps and road blocks. At the same time, I also want her to love and accept who she is, every single part of her, including her own darkness. I want her to feel safe and understood and deeply, deeply okay being just as she is.
Even - especially - when "as she is" is extremely sensitive.
In pursuit of resiliency, I am sometimes heartless, answering a BANG! OW! WAHHHHHHHH! with nothing more than a raised eyebrow and a wordless pat on the head. I have been known to look down at her tearful face with weary resignation, as if to say: What is it this time? I have, on occasion, reminded her that when she screams and cries so often, over relatively tiny events, she is training me to ignore her yells. Which means if something truly awful were to happen someday, much like the townspeople and the boy who cried wolf, I may not heed her call.
I'm okay with this approach most of the time. I like to imagine that my calm, impassive reaction reflects back to her that minor bumps and bruises are all in a day's work and not such a big deal after all. I don't know if it really does. I can only hope so.
But sometimes, when I look at her tear-streaked face - really look - I remember. I remember crying over anything and everything. I remember tears that came from nowhere and everywhere all at once. I remember physical discomfort as being impossible to bear, emotional discomfort as nothing short of torture.
I remember being five and being completely and totally at the mercy of my own tear ducts.
Those are the times that I engage with her, probably more than I should. I can't will myself to turn away from her pain. I can't help but reach out to her.
To say: I know. Let it out.
And: It's really, really okay.