The Six Stages of Tears| December 6, 2022
We’re all born crying. It’s a habit that sticks for life
I’M not sure why there’s this huge shame associated with crying. Let’s say it is a weakness; still, all of us were born this way. And while it may get refined over the course of a lifetime, the habit never breaks.
We’re all in it together. Here’s my shoulder to cry on, for whichever stage you’re in.
When you become a mother, you learn that crying is not a personality thing. It’s a matter-of-fact thing
You let out a howl the moment you’re born, and all the people in the room find your puckered face so endearing. It doesn’t occur to you to be embarrassed about it. As a newborn, you wail with your full lungpower, anytime and anywhere. For what? Because you’re hungry.
(You spend the rest of your life suppressing tears when you’re hungry. But why? It works.)
When you hit your teens, you stop crying, cold turkey. Except you don’t actually stop; if anything you cry way more often and way more intensely. But none of it is on record. You spend all your energy clogging your tear ducts so that the tears leak in instead of out. The result is a perpetual scowl on your face that completes the look of your acne-coated skin.
During toddlerhood, you hone your crying skills, mastering the art of a proper tantrum. For what? For just about anything. For a treat that’s withheld or for a treat that isn’t. For being put to sleep or for being woken up. For being cold, for being hot, for being warm, for simply being.
Throughout your glorious childhood, which will only appear glorious after you graduate this stage, crying is a regular thing. You cry because of a bruised knee, a bruised ego, and everything in between.
Sometime during those childhood years is when you start developing the first hints of shame to accompany your tears. You don’t resist crying, but when it happens in public, your cheeks turn wet — and red.
The raging storms die down when you graduate adolescence. Emerging on the other side, you’re smug with the knowledge that your crying years are over. This is it. You aren’t a baby anymore; you’re finally past the “I’m-not-a-baby-anymore” teen years as well. You’re a mature adult with stable emotions and healthy coping skills. Tears, be gone.
Then you become a mother.
When you become a mother, you learn that crying is not a personality thing. It’s a matter-of-fact thing. No birth experience is complete without a serious downpour of tears.
Of course, you always need a reason to cry. It’s not a problem, though. As a newly minted kimpeturin, the reasons for tears abound.
After the birth of my your first baby, a girl, you cry because of a problem with the baby’s kiddush outfit. The problem is that it doesn’t fit right. Of course, the only sensible reaction to a baby’s kiddush outfit not fitting right is to cry. Your baby’s kiddush outfit doesn’t fit right! It looks terrible on her! It’s totally misshapen! It doesn’t do her beauty justice! It looks so, so aaaaaawful, sob-wail-hiccup-sob.
After your second baby, you cry because you miss your first baby. You yell at your kind sister — who took your daughter so you could get a few days of rest — as though she’d abducted your kid. You cry so loudly and so stubbornly that your sister gives up and hands your toddler the phone. Then the two of you cry together, sob-wail-hiccup-sob.
After your third, you cry because a nurse in the maternity ward is nasty to you. (Really nasty. Like really, really, really, sob-wail-hiccup-sob.) Also because you’re alone in the hospital on Shabbos and you can’t share your news with anyone and nobody even cares that you had a baby, plus the next day the baby spits up all over his brand-new take-me-home set before you’ve even left your hospital room and when you get home you’re starving and there’s nothing, nothing, nothing in the house to eat. (See? Crying from hunger is not a habit we’re meant to outgrow. It takes a new baby to remind you of your innate coping mechanism.)
After your fourth, you cry from pain.
After your fifth, you cry because, um…. It’s okay if you’re not sure. You’re most likely crying because of the Churban. That’s it, right? Right.
Here’s the deal. Unlike infancy, toddlerhood, childhood, adolescence, and that scant sliver of plain adulthood, motherhood is a stage you never graduate, biz hundert un tzvuntzig. Therefore, your tear ducts will never dry up again. You will continue to cry for the rest of your life.
You will cry when you hear a stirring melody.
You will cry at a chuppah, at the hushed rustle of gowns, even if it isn’t a close relative, because — a chuppah! All those neshamos coming down, a Jewish couple starting a new home, it doesn’t make you emotional if you cry, please.
You will cry when you hear happy news. You will cry when you hear sad news. You will cry when you’re insulted.
You will cry at a Chumash seudah. You will cry at a bar mitzvah. You will cry when your children cry.
And although you’ll never cry for being put to sleep, you will cry for being woken up. You will cry for being cold, for being hot, for being warm, for simply being. Your tears will leak both in and out; your mascara will run, and you’ll take the tissues you’re offered.
You’ll then have to accept that there’s no shame in crying. You shouldn’t try to hide your tears; you shouldn’t even turn red. You shouldn’t be afraid to get emotional, you should gracefully allow things to touch you.
Of course, I only know so much about crying after conducting extensive research on the topic. I’m always fascinated by situations I’ve never experienced. As an outsider, I hope I haven’t discounted any of your feelings and that the facts I presented are accurate. I can’t know for sure, because — what, me?
I never cry.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 821)
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