Sunday, September 14, 2014

Boys will be Children

Recently, my four year old son went to the barber with his father.  It was a barber shop he had been to before, but only once, where they use no scissors, only electric clippers. The first time, he was visably nervous, but the barber was very calm and assuring with him and it ended up being a positive experience overall and his hair looked great.  This time, however, the experience went differently.

This time, with a different barber at the same shop, my son started to cry.  He said it was because it felt like the clipper was pulling his hair.   I know that he is especially sensitive to sensations around his ears and if the clippers seem to be pulling more than last time, I can imagine that it would be cause for him to cry because it's hard for any four year old to distinguish and react to conflicting sensations and emotions and crying is a good way of processing those emotions if you aren't fully ready to express it in words.  I imagine that it must have been uncomfortable for the barber on a busy Saturday, in a small shop, to have a strange child crying while he's trying to cut his hair. I am not without compassion for the man.  However, he was without any compassion for my child.  My husband said he handled it horribly, even telling him to "suck it up, buttercup."  Among other actions that clearly let worry one know how disgusted he was by my son's outpouring of emotion.  

Here's my issue.  I know that not everyone can handle children crying.  I also know that reasonable adults have bad days, but I also know for a fact that he would not have been treated that way if he were female,  I know it for a fact because I cried off and on even I got my hair cry up through age ten or so and although I got a range of flustered reactions, that was not one of them.  I got empathy, I got frustration, I got irritation, but no one ever told me that I needed to "suck it up."  I may have been exasperating, but I was never invalidated.  Here's the truth, whatever gender expression children have, it has nothing to do with whether or not or how they express their emotions.  Babies cry, girls cry, boys cry, women cry, men cry, intersex people cry.  Crying is a healthy expression of emotions.  It is only our culturally trained discomfort with strong emotions and our culturally trained level for tolerance that make us believe that tears are more acceptable for some and not others and the intolerance that is shown for the emotions of boys is absolutely reprehensible.  I can't count the number of times my son has been applauded for times he doesn't cry and scorned and mocked when he does.  I've even heard relatives telling him to "man up."  Man up?  He's a child!  And what kind of individual refuses to cry when he or she is hurt?  An unhealthy one.  A repressed one.

Boys will be children.  Children (and all humans) will cry.  If it's uncomfortable for you or someone around you, try to grow up a little.  Don't take it out on a child.


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