It was nap time and she didn’t want to go to bed, which wasn’t unusual on even a good day. Sometimes she would fuss, sometimes she would
cry a hollow overtired cry, sometimes she would sing, call out in protest, cry a minute and then sing again. All of these things were within the realm of normal for her. On this day though, she cried and cried an cried. She calmed a bit for a story but when I laid her down she cried some more. I left for a few moments, but paused because this time it was different. The crying was escalating, it was distressed, and it wasn’t anything I’d ever heard from her. Something was wrong, she was beside herself.
I went to her, picked her up and took her in my lap. “What’s wrong? What is the matter?” I whispered. “I don’t know Mama, I don’t know. It just won’t stop.” She sobbed. “Ok, then you keep crying ’til the crying is done. Let all of it out. I’ll keep holding you” I told her. She nodded “Ok Mama, I will.”
I held her for nearly thirty minutes, until her eyes were red and puffy and had started to close. I laid her down again and she looked up with alarm. “I know. You need me to stay. I will.” I said. She nodded and I laid down next to her. She held my hand and fell asleep.
I left her room somewhat perplexed; that had never happened before, that level of distress, but I listened and I knew she was grieving something. What it was, I will likely never know, but when she woke she was happier than she had been in days and it had gone. That night I worried she would need me to stay again but she didn’t, she just said “Night Mama” like she always had. She had unloaded it and I helped her carry it away. Sometimes you just have to listen and trust and sometimes you just have to stay.
For more on empathy and accepting big feelings (even tantrums!) check out these great posts: