“Stop Crying Or I’ll Give You Something To Cry About”

Stop Crying or I'll Give You Something to Cry About | thisgratefulmama.com

Oh my. I went and said it. Words tumbled out before thinking.

It all started with a long day. Our son just didn’t get to do what he felt like doing. We ran a lot of errands and because his sister wasn’t feeling well, we didn’t spend time outside playing with friends. We went in the basement for some running and to PLAY before bed and a few minutes in, he stubbed his toe on the concrete. What started with tears of pain quickly morphed into a hysterical melt down. Before long, it was evident he no longer knew WHY he was even crying anymore.

Various tactics to distract, comfort and soothe failed. At some point, I decided it was time to calm down and told him so.

He tearfully stammered, “I. Can’t. Stop.”

For whatever reason, that was the last straw. Out of my mouth came words I thought I’d never say…

Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about”

He looked at me quizzically, sucking air and actually attempting to stop crying. His gaze begged the question – what on earth does that mean?

Good question.

Words escaped before I considered their meaning. What DID I mean? And how was I planning to follow through with that threat? Did I want to punish him for crying? Is not being able to calm down a punishable offense? Or is it even an offense?

All I knew is he was making a ruckus and I was grasping at straws to make him stop. Honestly, I was tired of listening to it and ready to move on.

But WHY?

Why WAS it so important that he stop? Sure, it was LOUD, but we were at home, inside, and his crying wasn’t really hurting anyone but him. He was going to pay the price of this tantrum – with lost play time, puffy eyes and a stuffy nose.

Him. Not me.

Why do I need him to stop crying if something in him makes him feel like crying something out? What if this emotional expression doesn’ NEED to be fixed but rather needs release? 

Why ask him to STUFF his emotions if they are so powerful he can’t sort through them any other way? I DO NOT want him to stuff tears simply to avoid punishment. Nor do I want him to be afraid to show emotions in front of me or to pretend to be OK for my benefit.

I DO want a child who is who he IS and is comfortable in his own skin – happy or sad. 

I want him to feel safe and to be himself in our home. If that means he releases emotions with crying when he has no other way, it needs to be OK. Hurrying and judging his emotions did not work and caused escalation. Next time I need to just let him cry it out. We will continue to teach him to seek solace in family, friends and the Lord when he feels down.

He needs to know it is OK to be upset, disappointed, or to just feel like crying even if he does not know why – it is OK to just cry.

I’m not saying we should create an environment for temper tantrums defined by disobedience, stomping feet and screaming. We will continue to teach him that it is ok to be upset but it is not ok to break rules just because we’re emotional.

But once in a while, this kid just needs to CRY. And who doesn’t? There are days when all I need is a good cry. Although I prefer not to do so…I feel better when I’m done.

On this particular day, loud overnight storms had interrupted his sleep, his dad was out-of-town, and the day was packed. I know he was disappointed by the lack of play time and friends. By the end of the day, his body and emotions were exhausted. A stubbed toe sent him spiraling into an emotional release of epic proportions. This wasn’t a tantrum laced with disobedience – it was simply alligator tears and body shaking sobs.

His confused response to my words revealed his need for grace and to be allowed to get it all out. Even if it takes longer than I prefer.

How do you guys deal with this? Sometimes maybe we just need to wait until they are ready to move on. If we’ve done what we can to help and nothing worked…it is time to just wait.

After processing the confusion of my words, he returned to crying, warily eyeing me to see if I’d follow through.

Instead of acting on those careless words, I apologized, sweeping him into my arms. We just sat together and he cried until he was done. I’d rather be soaking wet in tears and deaf in one ear from his loud sobs directly in my ear than give him something else to cry about.

As he calmed down, he snuggled in, finally at rest in my arms. Subdued. Grateful for my presence. Relaxing in the arms of someone who let him just BE. What a glorious picture of how our Father in heaven longs to envelop us in His arms and comfort our very souls.

Instead of giving something more to cry about, lets extend grace and patience. Instead of teaching them to stifle emotion, lets give freedom to express what cannot come out any other way. Lets give them room to figure out how to stop on their own – when they’re ready.

On Peanut Allergy and LEAP – Why The Conflicting Emotions Among Allergy Parents?

I have been anticipating the LEAP study findings since hearing it was in progress almost 3 years ago. Our son was diagnosed with a peanut and cashew allergy in 2012. In the initial shock of the diagnosis, I started looking for any answers I could find.

WHY did he have this allergy, and what could we have done differently? Was it my fault for eating my body weight in peanuts while pregnant? What about while nursing? Was he too exposed? Underexposed?

When I stumbled across it, I was disappointed that the findings had not yet been published. If you aren’t familiar with the study, visiting the About LEAP page will explain the design better than I can. In general, the LEAP study looks to answer the question of whether avoidance of nuts or consumption of nuts at an early age makes a person more or less likely to develop a peanut allergy.

The site has been bookmarked on my computer since 2012. I’ve checked back often to see if there was any indication of when they would publish their findings. Results were expected as early as 2013, but it wasn’t until February 2015 when results were released.

I’m not the only one who anticipated the study, as is evidenced by the intense media coverage it is receiving in the wake of its release.

When the results were released, I read them with anticipation and excitement. You could check out the summary of results on the LEAP website but I would recommend reading the New England Journal of Medicine article for yourself. All children included in the study were classified as high-risk for a peanut allergy if they had an existing egg allergy and/or severe eczema, and no strong preexisting peanut allergy (strong was evidenced by a skin wheel (or hive) from skin testing larger than 4 mm).

In the LEAP study, of 834 potential participants, 76 had wheels over 4 mm before the study began and were excluded. This means these children were 4 to 11 months of age and already had significant allergy (See Figure 1 – Methods section of the journal article). 76 may sound like not very many, but is close to 10%, albeit from a high risk group of children sought out for inclusion in the study. Groundbreaking study or not, LEAP may be of little help to parents whose children are high-risk for an allergy and developed a strong peanut allergy before they were 4-11 months of ageWhile we embrace that knowledge about peanut allergies is increasing, we are still waiting on and longing for answers as to why these children are at such high risk in the first place.

But there is certainly valuable and solid information here for those children who are not highly allergic before the age of 4 months.

As summarized on the LEAP website, the study yielded these exciting results:

Of the children who avoided peanut, 17% developed peanut allergy by the age of 5 years. Remarkably, only 3% of the children who were randomized to eating the peanut snack developed allergy by age 5.   Therefore, in high-risk infants, sustained consumption of peanut beginning in the first 11 months of life was highly effective in preventing the development of peanut allergy.

A difference of 14% of children developing or not developing an allergy is significant. It means if your child doesn’t already have a strong early onset allergy, but is at risk of developing one, giving them peanut products at an early age may (no guarantees) help prevent an allergy. And, if they have a minor allergy (wheel less than 4mm), they may still be helped by feeding them nuts, although would require supervision and care of a medical professional.

Results like these give parents something they CAN do to help their high risk child. To give them their best shot. There is no mistaking that the results hold very important truth and tangible results for the right circumstances.

It is going to change the recommendations. It is paving the way for further study as we speak. A biochemist by training, MORE information is always a good thing, right?

Not necessarily.

The study leaves me with conflicting emotions. I feel like I’ve been on a roller coaster all week.

When you look at the allergy community, the study has received acclaim, praise, frustration, and resistance.

Why so emotional?

  • Too little too late: Information is power, but now my daughter is 2 and has never eaten a peanut. We are a peanut free household. Our allergist told us she has a higher chance of developing a peanut allergy than other children because of our son’s allergy (a.k.a. our family genes). We were told to use caution introducing peanuts. When I asked if it was OK to wait until her 2nd birthday, there was no indication it was a bad idea. According to this study, we may have now waited one year too long to do the only thing that has been shown to possibly prevent development of a peanut allergy. So, although the study is relevant, groundbreaking even, the findings may not be able to help her. Yet…we pray she may never develop a peanut allergy.
  • We may be resistant: Defensive even. Information published on the internet can be simply false, or taken out of context. The first statement I saw did not mention the LEAP study name, but stated that we should ALL feed peanuts to 4 month old infants to prevent peanut allergy. It was out-of-context and missing important cautions and caveats. Alarming – and dangerous. The post left me feeling skeptical and defensive. It is my duty to read information for myself, and to draw educated conclusions with an open mind. It would be a grievous error to rely on someone else’s write-up, emotions, or opinion. We should be excited that people are spending their time studying peanut allergy and to read their findings, whatever they are. When I actually read the entire LEAP study, I agreed that this study is impressive, important, and demonstrates something we didn’t already know about peanut allergies. It is nothing to scoff at and needs to be taken seriously. But it needs to be viewed and written about within the proper context.
  • We feel attacked:  There are some who think we caused our children’s allergies and aren’t afraid to share it all over the internet.  I read this article and it describes very well how parents can be bullies too and requests empathy – it is well worth your time to read. But  the LEAP study does not say parents are to blame. It says feeding children peanuts early may help, but it will not help all of them. There is no way to go back and see which child would or would not develop an allergy. And guess what? Many of the children in the allergy community had life-threatening reactions before 4 months. Their faces swelled up and maybe they stopped breathing after being kissed by peanut-butter tainted lips. Many children had severe eczema, or reactions to breast milk after their mother ate peanuts.
  • We feel guilty: Although the LEAP study does not point blame, we blame ourselves. We cannot help it. Finding out now that feeding our children nuts at an earlier age could have even POSSIBLY prevented our child’s peanut allergy brings a disturbing and painful pang of mama-guilt. It feels awful, warranted or not. No one else needs to point a finger at us because we’ve had it pointing at ourselves since day one. We wondered if those nuts we ate (or didn’t eat) while pregnant made this happen. We wondered what we did wrong and have assumed we did something wrong.
  • We are frustrated: The LEAP findings contradict how I and many other parents fed our children at early ages. We followed recommendations of trusted allergists and pediatricians. Many of us were aware of food allergy dangers and consulted reputable sources like the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Asthma and Allergy. Avoidance was recommended in 2000. Recommendations were slightly modified in 2008 and furthermore in 2013, but that doesn’t mean all pediatricians and allergists were on board. Infant nutrition and care books were not up to date. We did research these things, but just didn’t know what we and the medical community did not yet know.
  • We have questions: While some answers have come to light, 100s more have popped up in their place. There is much left to learn, and we don’t fully understand what this all means yet. The LEAP study is great, but long term effects are yet unknown (awesome that they are continuing follow up in the LEAP-ON study as we speak).
  • We are grateful: In wake of the amazing developments of potential therapies like the Viaskin(R) peanut patch, the LEAP study findings, and more, science is making huge advancements in understanding how to help the allergy community. We are grateful. We are grateful for parents and children in the clinical trials and studies. We are grateful for those investing their time, careers, and funding. The knowledge is increasing, and the understanding being gained is invaluable. It is bound to change the allergy world forever. And soon. Thank you.
  • We are hopeful: Even if the LEAP study shows results that are too late for many of us to use the information, those having babies now will benefit. We hope allergy rates will go down. We don’t want ANY child to have a food allergy, even if our child does already. We hope the therapies will be effecive. We hope for science to find answers, causes, and cures. We anticipate these things and cling to hope for tools that will change our children’s lives.
  • We are forgiving: We are also frustrated that with all the new findings, there is still no concrete way to prevent infant peanut (and other) allergy. For many of us, even if we’d known and fed our child peanuts at 4 months, it may not have changed anything. We accept where we are now, where we’ve been, and instead of pointing fingers we look forward to future advancements. We forgive ourselves for our part as we forgive the medical community who is learning about allergies with new revelations, just as we are. And, we choose to forgive the community of ignorant people who feel the need to blame us.

 

It is important to note that not everyone within the allergy community has these feelings. But the care of our children and loved ones, and their safety is so important, that emotions are bound to run high. If it seems like some of us are conflicted, we are.

I am.

When Your Child is Bullied…Emotions Run Wild

I am proud of my son. We recently went to a park with friends where a child smaller than him decided that every time he touched one of those big metal, lever-operated sand diggers, that she was going to pry his little fingers off of it.

She wasn’t using it beforehand, waiting in line, or giving any indication that she might want to use it. But, apparently she did want to use it when she saw HIM using it. And that desire was great enough to approach a much older, taller child and take a turn. By force.

The first time, I didn’t see it. He was waiting in line to use the digger with a few other children. There were several other parents nearby and everything appeared calm. I turned to help my daughter with something. Suddenly he was by my side in tears, saying he wanted to use the digger.

Since I didn’t understand what had happened, I thought he was just being impatient. I walked over there with him and told him I’d wait with him. I took a seat on the cement ledge and waited as he stood in line. Soon enough, his turn came and the smile broke through. He moved the digger into the sand and scooped once, before a tiny blond girl came over and started pulling on his arm.

He looked at her, eyes wide, continued trying to dig, and as she continued pulling on any body part she could reach. Finally, he looked to me for help.

I asked her to stop touching his body, and to wait her turn, and that he would be done very soon. She looked directly at me, briefly appeared surprised that I spoke to her, and then proceeded to pull backwards his pinky finger with her whole body straining as she yanked. HARD.

Wincing, he shook his hand free, and tried to return it to the handle, only to find her victorious hand already there. She was now using her entire tiny body to shove him out of her way.

Despite her small stature and age, her methods were BIG.

At this point, since no parent around me intervened, I asked my son to come sit by me until she was finished. His eyes widened in confusion and filled with tears.

He knew it was his turn. He knew this wasn’t fair.

As he waited in my lap with hurt feelings and tears streaming, I told him I was sorry for what happened and he could have another turn when she was done. I asked my son if that had happened before, he nodded and said she took his turn earlier. I apologized to him and told him I didn’t know that had happened.

At some point, something I said to my son made another nearby parent realize the little girl wasn’t MY child. She said since I had intervened, she figured the girl was mine and it was a sibling argument. I told her I was hesitant to ask her to stop with my son because I wasn’t sure whose child she was, but wasn’t OK with her hurting his hands. The parent said the little girls behavior had spanned over many children and had been going on for some time.

Soon after the girl finished with the digger, she wandered into the sandbox and took the toy of the child whose parent I was talking to. The boy was younger than her, and promptly hit her in the back of the head as she took off with his shovel. He was met with a time out. Again, I saw that same confused, sad expression, as this child’s eyes, too, filled with tears. Despite the hit, she seemed unscathed.

It is hard to stomach watching a child realize that life IS NOT FAIR. That even if they are required to follow rules to treat others kindly, others may not follow those same rules.

Sigh. These lessons are painful for the child, and for the parent to watch. Even at 2 and 3, life just is not fair.

While my son’s big tears broke my heart, his response to her almost made my heart burst with PRIDE.

He was kind to her. Gentle. He never even pushed her hand away or touched her prying hands that were surely hurting his. All his motions were to get away, not to lash out. When he didn’t know what to do, he didn’t improvise and try her methods, he looked to me to intervene.

Despite handling it in a way I was proud of, these interactions had a profound effect on him. He never quite recovered while we were at the park. Later, he was easily upset, and visibly distressed when the same little girl came near, and when she took some sand toys from him and other children. He was always aware of her presence, and his body language was not afraid of, but surely wary of her. Still, he did not lash out.

As a parent, watching all of this was frustrating. How can one little person cause so much turmoil?

I was angry at her invisible parent or caregiver whose lack of supervision and correction was affecting HER as well as many other children. It would be one thing if it happened once and they had missed it, but instead, it was as if everywhere this child went, tears followed.

At no point did an accompanying parent or older sibling speak to her about her behavior, and it left my son rattled and in tears, several times.

I had trouble not being frustrated at the child, but let’s be honest, she was a 2-year-old, and although her behavior was certainly not OK, it was still that of a 2-year-old. I don’t think this child was simply being defiant or a bully. She was too small to really understand how getting her own way at another person’s expense is wrong.

This behavior is LEARNED, and then NOT CORRECTED. 

I think her surprise at my correction indicated a complete lack of correction in her life. She may not have known better. Considering this, I worry for her future, and am saddened by the disregard for discipline that will help her long-term. The neglect of her parent means she will either learn she can get away with this behavior, or she will learn the HARD way, as other children lash out at her and stop them on their own.

I cannot imagine the feelings I will have when the bullying is meaner, from older kids, and intentional. I can only guess those feelings will be amplified and powerful.

I never want to experience what comes if I ever find out MY child was treating others in this manner, or worse.

If my son is near someone who ends up in tears, I ask what happened. I don’t assume it was his fault, but if something happened that involved him, I want to make sure he either apologizes, or at a minimum tells the other person he hopes they feel better.

In essence, to be kind. Have empathy. Be aware of others feelings.

Don’t get me wrong, my son is not perfectly behaved, and wasn’t that day at the park either. I watched him try to ‘swap’ with another boy; when he wanted a truck the boy had, he TOOK the truck and gave the boy something else that the child obviously didn’t want. As a result, we asked him to return the boy’s toy and apologize. When we were done playing, he thanked the kids and parents in the sandpit for sharing their toys with him.

I’m sure these lessons were confusing to his young mind. First of all, we’ve rarely encountered other children who when spoken to by ANY adult, do not stop their behavior. He knows that he is supposed to listen to all adults. Second, he knows that he would not be able to continue playing until he has time out and apologizes. And third, he has sadly now learned that even if someone else doesn’t follow those same rules (over and over), he still has to.

I’ve been teaching my son the following bible verse, to help with sibling squabbles:

Be kind to one another, be tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

(we have explained tender-hearted as gentle, and caring for the feelings of others)

On the way home we talked about how he felt at the park, and how we never want to make anyone else feel that way. Despite his confusion, I could see the understanding and empathy for others’ feelings. That night, when he brought it up again, we talked about the verse and how God says it is important to forgive others and to be kind to everyone.

I wish I could have had the same conversations with that little girl. I know she could have the same empathy if SHOWN and INSTRUCTED.

Ephesians 4:32

Ephesians 4:32