Not all questions are verbal. Sometimes they come as tears. I find helping my boys articulate those questions much harder.
My boys were playing with a friend and found some baby birds fallen out of their nest. The boys wanted to rescue the birds and one of the people in the house where they found the birds helped them make a “nest” to put the birds in. After dinner we had to go see how they were doing and meet the nice woman who helped save the baby birds.
The next day we had a downpour! The boys were so worried about how the birds were doing that as soon as it stopped raining they were out the door to check. We ended up bringing the baby birds home to dry off and see if we could nurse them through. Unfortunately they died the next day while the boys were at school. When the boys came home, they were sad and wanted to call their friend and bury the baby birds. So after dinner we put the birds in a box and got the boy’s friend so the three of them could dig a hole and bury the baby birds. It was a solemn burial. I had to help dig the hole deep enough, but the boys put the box with the birds in, covered it up with dirt and marked the spot with stones.
Then the tears started to flow. For my youngest son it turned into uncontrollable sobbing. It took me a moment and then I realized that this wasn’t about the birds dying! The friend was moving away in a few days. His family was moving overseas, far away! Not only was this friend moving, but another boy my youngest son is good friends with was also moving with his family halfway around the world for two years. My son’s heart was breaking because he was about to lose two good friends. The two baby birds dying were just the trigger that opened the floodgate of his tears over losing his friends.
Helping my son understand that his heart really was hurting, but the baby birds weren’t the real reason was hard. I’m not sure if my sons have had more loss than most young boys, or if they are just more sensitive to loss due to adoption. Either way, it hurts, and I want my son to know its ok to cry, you just want to cry about the real thing that is hurting. We can’t always change the situation or circumstances, but we can acknowledge how we feel about it and recognize the control we have over our responses.
I ended up lying down with my son so he could get to sleep that night. So often that time just before they fall off to sleep is another point when the deep thoughts and questions spill out. They are relaxed and feel safe enough to open up and talk about what’s stirring inside them. I have learned it’s an important time to be available.
What questions have your children asked through their tears?