My wife and I have been parents for going on seven years now. During that time we’ve been using a rather unsophisticated tool to gauge the level of emotion that our children have invested in a given situation. Specifically, the tear gauge.
In short it goes like this; the more tears there are, the more emotional investment there has been in that situation. It’s been a rule of thumb for us until quite recently that is, when the little guy changed things up for us. But more on that later…
Our eldest boy is completely emotionally transparent. Whatever emotion he’s feeling you are immediately able to see a corresponding physical manifestation of that emotion etched on his angelic little face.
When he’s angry, there’s a frown and copious amounts of tears of frustration complete with expansive Italian hand gestures (we’re not Italian so I’m not sure where he gets that from). Also, I get the feeling they’re saltier tears.
When he’s sad, there’s a waterfall of tears of sorrow and a pitiful, usually quivering, bottom lip. The defining characteristic for sad tears is the length of time the tears go on for and the size of the drops, they’re really quite extraordinary. Dollops of tears is a better description actually.
When he’s sorry, there’s a single digit set of tears that seem to hang suspend in his eye sockets for an eternity. I’ve watched them, they’re like chandeliers. If we could bottle them we’d probably have hoverboards by now because they definitely have anti-gravity properties.
When he’s laughing there are usually no tears but sometimes a single ninja tear of joy will escape out of an eye towards the end of an honest to goodness belly laugh. The best kind of tears.
Actually I think if we were to collect them and measure them using a garden rain gauge or the like, we’d be able to draw a direct comparison between the amount of tears and the level of emotion. For now though it’s all just based on parental intuition.
So then it came as no surprise recently, when we were all saying goodbye to my in-laws at the airport as they set off on an extended holiday, that the big guy had plenty of sad tears on tap as he begged to be allowed to go with them. We managed to cheer him up over the course of the day though and by bedtime he was in balance again. He is, in the best possible way, ‘what you see is what you get’.
The little guy is a conundrum. He has all of the same behaviors with tears that his brother has with one notable exception in the amount of lip that is projected when he’s sad. It’s truly quite a masterpiece of muscular control that mimics beautifully any number of cartoons you’ve ever seen where a character is ‘sad’ and wishes to show it using tears and a backup lip method, you know, just in case you didn’t see the tears.
That little lip tugs at my heartstrings so gently and deftly that it becomes something akin to my Kryptonite. I’m the proverbial putty in his hands.
At the airport that day, he was completely cool, emotionally aloof, smiling and a little playful. He gave hugs and kisses goodbye at the appropriate time and waved with a big happy smile as his grandparents disappeared into the belly of the departure lounge. The balance of the day saw him in a good mood and bedtime was a sinch. We were left with the feeling that we’d pulled off a coup. How easy was that goodbye today? So easy. Let’s pat ourselves on the back.
Later that night he woke up crying about a bad dream he’d had where some piggy’s were breaking his house. When asked what happened to them he said they all flew away on an airplane. Here’s where i whipped out the Sherlock Holmes signature hat and did a little detective jig around what actually happened.
There’s been a surge in Angry Birds paraphernalia recently given that a movie has just been released. You can’t pass a shop window without seeing one of these critters lolling about on a shelf. They’re round…they loll. The little guys are fully immersed in the Angry Bird universe and as I understand it, piggy’s are the antagonists.
So, the little guy had obviously had a dream about piggy’s and it shook the box of Cheerios in his head. Somehow his grandparents had been woven into the story in the plane that took off and he’d then woken up in tears because the birds were flying away.
Or perhaps it was because he’d fallen out of bed.
Yes. Forgot to mention that the parents with six full years of experience and some change (we’re practically journeymen) had decided to take down the bed rail that very same day and all the restlessness in bed, no doubt trying to escape piggy’s, had caused the little guy to tumble out of bed and land unceremoniously on the floor.
Cue the Daddy. Cue the tears, the sad ones.