Monday, November 29, 2010

The Tin Man Cometh

When I was little, I would cry at the drop of a hat. I don’t know if I was always that way, or if it started when I went to school. Crying was a chronic problem for me when I was in the first grade. I would cry because the day was too long (this was in the days of half-day kindergarten, so the transition to a full day of school was a tough one for me) or because I missed my step mom. One of the most frequent reasons for me to turn on the waterworks was when someone else was getting yelled at. I hated for anyone to yell. My dad’s a yeller, so maybe my aversion started there, but I can remember my first grade teacher getting particularly frustrated as the school year went on. She would be yelling at one of my classmates, I would start to cry, and she would start yelling at me for being so silly, which would only make me cry all the harder. I didn’t want to cry – I would put down my head, squeeze my eyes shut, and try to think of something happy or funny, but the tears would inevitably press through. At some point, my parents got involved. I don’t recall the specifics, but I remember some sort of deal being struck, and I think the terms were that for every day I didn’t cry, I got a pack of gum. It worked, but it worked too well. I became a person for whom tears were almost an impossibility. I don’t recall a single instance of tears all through my teen years – no funeral or sad movies would elicit a drop, not even when the first girl I thought I loved dumped me (okay, maybe I misted up later that night while listening to Journey’s “Faithfully”). It bothered me as I grew older. Instead of feeling like a “tough” guy – real men aren’t supposed to cry, right? – I felt more like a robot. There were a few times over the last few years when I have been able to cry – truly sad times – but they were rare, and I usually had to work to make the tears come. But when the nurse put Violet in my arms, I was crying even before I realized it – crying with relief for Linda that all the labor we’d stressed about was over, crying with delight at the tiny collection of mingled genes in my arms. Since then, there have been a few more times where a story on the radio or a song will catch me off guard and I’ll get a lump in my throat. Have I now gone too far in the other direction? I don’t think so. The emotional roller coaster of the last eight days was intense, so things are somewhat raw in my head right now. Maybe, as things settle down and life with Violet becomes more real, my emotions will settle down, too. But maybe not. A friend of mine recently sent me a message and marveled at how parenting is akin to growing a new heart. I knew my old was one a bit messed up, but I like the feel of this new one. I think I’ll keep it.

9 days old.

The friend who told me about the new heart? She's a poet/writer/teacher with a great blog called The Poem Farm. Check it out at:


  1. Yay for you!

    When I saw Violet the other day at school, I got teary at her whole itty bitty self, and a little part of my heart rejoice, b/c I felt like a 'real' mom/girl/woman who gets teary at those things. Growing up I always put on my tough face, and didn't understand how people could cry at 'those things'.

    I am happy that I, too, get it now. We're never too old to learn. The fun part is we get to learn all the important things now!

  2. Ah, yes... similarly to Amy's comment, my friend Karen always says that having a child is like having a little part of your heart walking around outside of yourself.

  3. Amy - It's amazing and a little scary how all those things that parents used to talk to me about - all those things that seemed foreign or silly - they all make perfect sense and ring so, so true.