Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Fear of Tears

One Monday morning, I logged into work and greeted my co-workers online.  Talking a bit about our weekends, I listed my high point as making my daughter cry.  The amused shock that followed (my co-workers know me pretty well) was probably warranted by the way I made that statement - and yet I meant each and every word.

So how did I make my daughter cry?  Simple: I watched Return of the Jedi with her.  Say all you want about the Ewoks (my daughter loved them, by the way), but Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader's story arc is gripping, emotional, and well-executed.  And as their story resolved, I found myself hugging a sniffling seven year old... and feeling strangely proud.

It's this pride that I don't think my co-workers understood, and in all likelihood I badly mangled the explanation for it.  But it comes down to this: what's wrong with being sad when something is sad?  Isn't it more dangerous to learn to brush aside or suppress your feelings?

There's a lot of things I want my daughter to grow up to be - happy, healthy, smart, funny, generous - and up there on that list is empathetic.  I've long believed that stories are a pathway towards that goal, but only if the audience is willing to truly put itself into a character's shoes.  Laugh when someone laughs, shiver when someone's scared... and cry when someone cries.

So maybe it's weird that I'm okay that my daughter is the only child I know that audibly sobbed during The Lego Movie.  But I guess I'd just rather she feel too much than feel too little.

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