I Don’t Know Whether to Laugh or Cry…Yet

By Michael

He was so cute, running through the mall ahead of his stroller and feeling the freedom that comes from being completely unaware that mom is holding the other end of his leash. Smiling, laughing and then, bammo.

Another toddler hits the deck.

You gotta pay attention to this the next time you see it, because there’s a dance that’s about to begin. Baby’s on the ground, not injured but certainly surprised that his mall jog has ended. Mom is heading up fast for a closer look.

He picks his head up, looks at mom, and….

A) She panics and comes unglued and the baby sees her panic and starts bawling.

B) She makes a joke about going boom and laughs and the baby smiles and laughs.

Not always, of course. If the toddler is actually injured, it’s an entirely different story. Other times, though, it’s a teaching moment. Baby wants to know what to make of the situation and she takes her cue from the nearest caregiver—usually mom.

When it’s dad, of course, the most common response is a command to “suck it up” and “shake it off” and “be tough.” Crying is allowed, but only if things are really, really bad. Otherwise, you’re just a sissy, and no dad wants to raise a sissy. Life is going to throw all kinds of crud at our kids when they grow up. It’s never too early to teach them to be just a little tougher, a little more stoic, and not a big sissy.

Stephanie and I were on a bike ride when a possum or muskrat or some other huge rodent ran across the sidewalk. Well, the critter ran about halfway across the sidewalk before Stephanie rode into him and fell off the bike and the beaver—did I mention it was the size of a Shetland pony??—scurried back into the weeds.

No doubt about this one, she was hurt when she fell. Not broken-arm, emergency-room hurt, but skinned-knee hurt. And I was concerned, really I was. But if we focused too much on the bison she’d hit and how it could have ripped her head off with just one of its curled horns, she’d have nightmares and never ride with me again.

So I checked her out and made a joke and said we had to get home because we were going to be late and mom would be mad. And we got back on the bikes and went home. Without tears. Because she was distracted quickly and didn’t have time to focus on the mastodon that nearly trampled her into the dirt.

My children know how to laugh and cry without any help from me. It’s been my job to teach them which response is most appropriate, and when.

Michael Rosenbaum is 5 Minutes for Parenting’s first dadblogger. He is a business consultant, playwright and author of Your Name Here: Guide to Life.

Michael blogs on life issues at Your Name Here Guide to Life and manages the Adult Conversation discussion group on Linked-In.

7 Responses to I Don’t Know Whether to Laugh or Cry…Yet
  1. Noelle Corbin
    December 8, 2009 | 12:17 pm

    I have this innate (and inane?) reaction when people fall – it makes me laugh – hard. Of course if the fallee were actually injured, I would not find it funny, but I would probably laugh until I realized an injury had occurred. I always thought of this as sort of a negative, insensitive quality and tried to reign it in, but since becoming a Mom, it has really proved useful. There is no better way to stop a newly fallen child from crying than to laugh.

  2. Kelly
    December 8, 2009 | 10:43 pm

    I loved this post.

    For the record, neither my husband nor I are the types to rush in and kiss every boo-boo. The standard line in our house is, “No blood, no foul.” And even when there is blood, we tend to deal with it quickly and in a rather non-dramatic fashion.

    On the flip side, we will be the ones who find out a month after an injury that our child has been living with a broken arm.

  3. Michael
    December 8, 2009 | 10:57 pm

    Hahaha. Actually, that happened to me, although it was only a week later….but that is a topic for another day.

  4. Carrie
    December 9, 2009 | 4:50 pm

    This is SO true. I learned early with my little boy as a toddler that if I responded to his falls with, “Hey! It’s alright! Let’s get back up!” instead of “Gasp – OH, My BABY, are you alRIGHT?” that he would recover much more quickly. 🙂

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