Cry It Out

When I was born, I cried a lot.

I was born at home and the midwife advised my mum that the best thing to do was to just leave me to cry myself to sleep. The theory was that babies could learn to comfort themselves given enough time.

We now know this is bollocks. In fact, babies who are left to ‘cry it out’ tend to grow up insecure, worried, anxious and unable to comfort themselves. They also find it a challenge to develop healthy relationships as adults. The insecurity they learned as infants carries through their lives (unless and until they understand the pattern and address it.)

But my mum was 19 and had never had a baby before. She didn’t know any of this, so she followed the midwife’s advice. And I cried and I cried and I cried.

And as I grew older, I heard the stories of my crying.

My crying became the stuff of legend.

“You were a difficult child,” my mum would say (still says, if asked) and I would just accept that as fact.

“You were so bossy as you got older,” she’d say. And I could remember being told off for being too bossy. I’d remember being called “little miss bossy boots.” So I just accepted that too.

But then I met my therapist.

“Children don’t cry for no reason,” she told me. You had needs that weren’t being met so you cried. That’s all.

“Children become bossy and controlling in order to feel safe,” she said, “not because they are inherently ‘difficult.'”

“You were just a little girl trying to feel secure,” she said.

And that’s when I was overwhelmed by this feeling of love and compassion for that sensitive little girl who was not a difficult child … but rather just a child. A child doing her best.

And that compassion was mixed with a sense of finally understanding why I am so insecure in my relationships. Knowing why I am this way doesn’t take away the insecurity, but it does make it easier to deal with. Because when I feel the familiar patterns kicking in, I can  picture wrapping my arms around that little girl and showing her all the love she needed.

Maybe it’s not too late.

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3 thoughts on “Cry It Out

  1. Corinne

    Knowing there had to be a more compassionate way to raise infants and children led me to going back to school and studying early childhood special education. My focus was on 0-3 year olds and teaching parents how to support all aspects of development, including emotional well-being. I spent 30 years trying to counter that “let them cry it out” attitude. Attitudes are changing, but it is slow. I’m sorry you had that experience – mine was similar. I’m glad you are finding awareness and ways to cope. Your counselor sounds wonderful.

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  2. Kristy Brenner

    I have had similar difficulties. And, fortunately, a similarly effective therapist. My favorite thing he told me is “You are not a monster” — that when parents see children as “needy,” the child can feel that her needs are devouring and monstrous. But we weren’t monsters, as you now know, we were just normal children. Normal little girls.

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  3. Lynn Cohen

    I love your therapist! And I love that you are being healed by her words! And your actions! It’s never to late, and you are young with lots of years ahead to enjoy this healing work you are doing! It so warms my heart!

    And your self portraits continue to be wonderful!

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