Monday, December 8, 2014

Heart of Darkness

I don't consider myself an especially emotional person, unless you count experiencing near-constant cravings for Panera's Greek salad as emotional (Kalamata olives are my Prozac). Being pregnant, however, makes me weepy sometimes--especially when it comes to anything involving the pain (hypothetical or real) of my husband or kids ... or anyone who is or was ever a child. Maybe this is how God tries to prepare me for having kids--by having hormonal empathy crammed down my throat so hard it leaks out my tear ducts.

Disney documentary on flamingos featuring chicks getting left behind by the flock to die because salt-deposit manacles have slowed them down? Stories of toddlers with cancer? Anything on the news, ever? Tears. Ok, I didn't cry during the flamingo movie, but I only because I forced myself not to imagine my children as the flamingo chicks, walking innocent and alone across the deserted, salty lakebed, wandering until they starve or are eaten by storks.

From the film "The Crimson Wing"--so depressing. Note the salt-shackled legs.

One day last week I set myself up for failure by following a Facebook link to a blog detailing the end of a beloved husband's battle against brain cancer. I knew it would make me cry, but I kept reading anyway because I'm human and I was putting off getting off the couch and out of my bathrobe (I'm so over maternity clothes). So I cried and cried while Graham and Ruby did who knows what in the kitchen. I finally pulled myself away, tried to shower away my puffy eyes, and took the kids to our new ward's playgroup.

Graham is at a hard age. He's too old to be interested by the toddlers (although he and Ruby crack each other up at home), but too young to keep up socially/physically with "the big kids," despite his best efforts.

One day he won't hold the brush like a caveman. If my child development professor is to be believed.

He was the only boy his age at the playground, so he was very interested in hanging out with a couple boys a year older than him. Developmentally, "almost four" is very different than "almost five." For the most part, Graham was oblivious to his position at the bottom of the totem pole, happy to trail after the boys, under the impression that he was fully involved in their games, whether or not he actually was. Then eventually he came to me, explaining through his tears that one of the boys had told him he couldn't play with them.

I don't want to demonize the boys--it was only an hour earlier that Graham had growled at a two-and-a-half-year-old who wanted to play with his ball. I think children are the worst ageists there are. It's normal. It's still sad when it happens to your kid, but it's normal for kids to find extra security in their own age-defined identities by excluding others. I remember the most important factor in determining who my third-grade best friend would be: after looking at the birthday board on the first day of school, Megan and I discovered we shared a birthday. Instant best friends, no questions asked.

Ordinarily, I would give him a hug, offer some sympathy, and suggest he find somewhere else to play on the playground. But I'm pregnant, so my heart broke even more than it usually does when this happens, and I found myself fighting back tears, hoping my incessant blinking would keep the other moms from noticing my ocular distress.

I distracted Graham with a ride on the swings while a fellow mom went to talk to the boy, who then came over and very nicely told Graham that he had been kidding and invited him to play. Graham was all too happy to forgive and forget and hopped out of the swing to return to a game of monsters/rock-throwing/running-around-screaming/whatever-boys-do. Problem solved, right?

Wrong. The sweet mom who had talked with the older boy echoed an apology and I lost it. The lump in my throat refused to be swallowed and I just burst into tears. I started blubbering about feeling bad for Graham, being pregnant and emotional, and then added something incoherent about the man who I've never met who died of cancer.


She gave me a hug and I kind of pulled myself together ... but I'd revealed my most vulnerable (pregnancy-augmented) soft spot: my kids' feelings.

I'd also revealed myself to be a crier. But I'm not a crier. I'm a pregnant crier. Not that there's anything wrong with being a crier, pregnant or not-pregnant. Cry on me whenever you want! Just don't think I will return the favor, unless I'm pregnant and someone was just mean to my kid. Or if I'm on the phone with an insurance company and getting mad. I also cry then.

It was just embarrassing, okay? It's one thing to care about your kids, but it's quite another to have a proxy cry long after your kid has gotten over the initial offense, and especially in front of people who don't know you very well yet.

When was your worst awkward cry? I remember an especially ugly cry in front of my high school English teacher ... the one who had a rule specifically forbidding crying. But how could I not cry when she gave me a B on my Heart of Darkness project after I'd spent hours analyzing the themes of greed and colonialism and cutting out coordinating photos of Africans and gold from my dad's beloved National Geographic collection? She was so cold about it ... that's what made me mad, which in turn made me cry. She's the one who obliterated my desire to be a high school English teacher, but I guess I should be grateful because instead I married an oil baron (cough*analyst at Exxon*cough) and now live a cushy life full of Amazon Prime shipping, and completely devoid of novels by Joseph Conrad.


  1. Lol. You would have made a great English teacher... especially when pregnant. :-)

  2. I had emergency surgery with an ectopic pregnancy a couple of years ago. To help me feel better, my dad got me a shake. Well, the restaurant got my order wrong and I got graham cracker instead of a grasshopper malt. I was furious, albeit irrationally, and I called them. I'm sure I was incoherent, but they took my name and said I could come get a free shake. I've been too embarrassed to pick it up.

    I love your blog. And I hate being pregnant. And postpartum. But 9 months after birth is a good place.

    1. How awful! I would have lost it over a grasshopper shake (delicious) under those circumstances, too. I'm glad 9 months postpartum is good! I'll have to remember that as I go through the post-baby craziness ...

  3. You've got company...I cried in the grocery store this week. It was, of course, preceded by a few very high-stress months and a toddler having a tantrum in the background, but none of the witnesses knew that I had very good reasons for losing it while attempting to choose a birthday card, so it was definitely embarrassing. I heard somewhere that public speaking is the top fear of most people in the U.S. I have to say that public crying is at the top of my list. Of course, for some of us, those two things go hand in hand.


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