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Acting Out to Heal Negative Emotions

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Sometimes all you need is a good cry.

eye crying

Maggie Vink: Often, when I was young, I'd hop on my bike and ride the four blocks to my Grandma's house. She'd be busy in the kitchen and I'd sit on the white iron stool with the pale blue cushion and pretend to put on makeup in front of her vanity. Sometimes Grandma and I would sit on her front porch glider -- I'd read and she'd complain about all the neighbors and how they didn't take good enough care of their lawns. Then she'd go inside, grab a couple of Nutter Butters and slip them to me with a crooked smile on her face.

But once, my visit to Grandma's wasn't so calm. I had been playing with some of the kids in her neighborhood and something or someone upset me. My Grandma was never the warm fuzzy type. But she was strong, solid and smart. When I came in with tears running down my face, she sat me down at the kitchen table and said words I'll never forget. She said, "Go ahead and have a good cry. Salt heals everything." She went about her business and let me cry it out. And you know what? I did feel better. And I'm pretty sure I got a Nutter Butter or two when I was all done.

I spend a lot of time trying to analyze my son's behavior. He has a lot of emotional issues due to the traumas from his first 10 years of life (before I adopted him). As understanding as I am about most of his behaviors, sometimes they baffle me. And maybe that's OK. Who ever said that we all have to make sense all of the time?

Recently, after a perfectly lovely day, my son asked if he could have another brownie for a snack. I gave him the thumbs-up for one final brownie. He went to the kitchen and came out with a plate loaded with three generously cut brownies. He said, "I accidentally took a bite out of three," which was one of those kid statements that make parents want to crack up even when we know we have to remain firm. I told him to put two back. He immediately exploded. He whipped a brownie at the window. Called me names I didn't know he knew. He screamed, yelled and destroyed anything that lay in his path. To say I was shocked at his sudden outburst would be an understatement.

I held him and sang "Sweet Baby James" over and over while he raged, screamed and cried like the world was coming to an end. He yelled that he didn't want to live with me and that I was the worst mom in the world. Thirty minutes later, we were both sweating, he was starting to calm and I was rubbing his back. Ten minutes after that we were hugging and whispering "I love yous." All because of a brownie.

It didn't make sense. We had had such a good day. But I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't need to make sense. For my son -- a boy who's been through so much -- sometimes even good days can be stressful ... he doesn't really trust that the next day will be as good. He doesn't always trust that there will be a next day with me.

The following morning, my son spent a lot of time telling me that we're a team and that we're together forever. He reminded me how lucky I am to have him. He told me that I love him bigger than the universe. I agreed with everything he said. After all, they were all my words -- he was just regurgitating them.

I guess he just needed to hear it all again. To feel it all again. He just needed a little salt to help heal his wounds.


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2 comments so far | Post a comment now
chris March 31, 2010, 4:25 AM

I LOVE having a good cry…it always makes me feel better and sometimes I don’t even know why I’m crying. :-)

Maggie March 31, 2010, 5:02 AM

My grandma knew what she was talking about! I think all grandmas do… it’s in their genes.


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