You may have noticed that kids cry, uncontrollably, for no apparent reason, all the time. It’s one of the defining features of being a kid – totally losing it, just because. If your kid doesn’t exhibit these behaviors, there might be something wrong – you should consider seeing a psychiatrist.
At this point, my wife and I have stopped asking why, partly because we don’t have any spare brain cells for such a deep and perplexing question, and partly because we’ve realized that kids just aren’t adults, which is why we call them kids. They haven’t grown up yet, physically or emotionally, so they lack experience and reference points, making it impossible to distinguish between a life threatening emergency and something small and trivial. Because they’re emotionally tiny, every molehill is an emotional mountain.
In addition to lacking perception, kids are emotionally hyper-responsive and indecisive. In case you hadn’t noticed, they can swing from giddiness to despondency and back in a matter of minutes, even seconds. I think the clinical term is spazoid. They’re still calibrating their emotional reaction mechanism, which seems more like an on/off switch than the dimmer or a dial of a non-spazoid grown-up.
And now, finally, the point of this post – what we’re supposed to do about this emotional roller coaster. I think we have three options: 1) pull them off because they’re too short for the ride, 2) smile and wave from that spot where they let parents wait and take pictures, or 3) take the seat next to them.
The first option seems easiest, the second I’m not sure about, but the third seems best, especially as our kids transition from the merry-go-round to the Matterhorn. Our job is to support their emotional growth, teaching them to distinguish between mountains and molehills and adjust their emotional dial accordingly.
The problem is, this requires having a little-person perspective. As rational, logical adults, it’s hard to understand where our kids are coming from. We need to step into our toddler’s Stride Rites or baby Robeez. We need to get down on our hands and knees and see life from an infant’s viewpoint. Then, things might make more sense. We have to be the mole.
On a less positive note, I just remembered a third and more common reason kids cry – to make us crazy spazoids. It’s not an emotional roller coaster, it’s emotional warfare – their objective is to hijack our sanity and their strategy is a sensory assault. In this case, the second option above, smiling and waving, is probably best.