Cross Culture at the Y: “It’s OK to Feel Sad”
My first encounter this morning was in the locker room, with the young water aerobics instructor I really like. I was glad to have a moment with her. I needed to thank her for helping me out the week before, when I started swimming classes with my little “I’m two, almost three” adorable granddaughter.
(This is a photo from the Prescott YMCA, this is not me and my granddaughter )
These are those classes where the parent/grandparent/foster parent is in the pool with the little one, helping them to be slithery fishes, or to safely enter and exit the pool, and we were having a great time until, in her two year old way, she suddenly looked at me and wished I were her mother.
Her face got all screwed up, and I was afraid she was going to cry, so I tried distracting her and it just made things worse.
“I want Mommy!” she cried, little tears streaming down her face. “I want Mommy!”
So I’m trying to explain that Mommy has to work, and that Mommy is not at home, I’m being all rational and my friend, who is also instructing that class, comes up and looks her in the eye and says “It’s OK to be sad! It’s OK to want your Mommy.”
I am so embarrassed to tell you this, but this was news to me. I grew up with a Dad who said “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” It wasn’t just my Dad, it was a generational thing. Crying was unacceptable. I think maybe being sad was unacceptable.
Little grand-daughter stopped crying. Her face showed such yearning. My friend, the instructor told her it’s OK to miss her Mommy and that for today, maybe she could have fun with her Grandmama, me, and little grand-daughter agreed.
From then on, everything was fine.
So I said “thank you for helping me out. We had a great class together Thursday. I’ve been thinking about how you handled her crisis, and how we never said things like that to our kids, but what a difference it made!”
My friend, the instructor also has a two year old, and just grinned. She explained to me about the effects of validation, and that we all need to express our feelings, and to have our feelings acknowledged, and then we can move on. It’s not something I know how to do very well, but I have seen it how effectively it works and I think I am going to learn how to do it myself.
Really, this was more a cross-generational difference, but generational differences are also a sort of cultural difference, are they not?