Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Cross Culture at the Y: “It’s OK to Feel Sad”

My first encounter this morning was in the locker room, with the young water aerobics instructor I really like. I was glad to have a moment with her. I needed to thank her for helping me out the week before, when I started swimming classes with my little “I’m two, almost three” adorable granddaughter.


(This is a photo from the Prescott YMCA, this is not me and my granddaughter )

These are those classes where the parent/grandparent/foster parent is in the pool with the little one, helping them to be slithery fishes, or to safely enter and exit the pool, and we were having a great time until, in her two year old way, she suddenly looked at me and wished I were her mother.

Her face got all screwed up, and I was afraid she was going to cry, so I tried distracting her and it just made things worse.

“I want Mommy!” she cried, little tears streaming down her face. “I want Mommy!”

So I’m trying to explain that Mommy has to work, and that Mommy is not at home, I’m being all rational and my friend, who is also instructing that class, comes up and looks her in the eye and says “It’s OK to be sad! It’s OK to want your Mommy.”

It is?

I am so embarrassed to tell you this, but this was news to me. I grew up with a Dad who said “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” It wasn’t just my Dad, it was a generational thing. Crying was unacceptable. I think maybe being sad was unacceptable.

Little grand-daughter stopped crying. Her face showed such yearning. My friend, the instructor told her it’s OK to miss her Mommy and that for today, maybe she could have fun with her Grandmama, me, and little grand-daughter agreed.

From then on, everything was fine.

So I said “thank you for helping me out. We had a great class together Thursday. I’ve been thinking about how you handled her crisis, and how we never said things like that to our kids, but what a difference it made!”

My friend, the instructor also has a two year old, and just grinned. She explained to me about the effects of validation, and that we all need to express our feelings, and to have our feelings acknowledged, and then we can move on. It’s not something I know how to do very well, but I have seen it how effectively it works and I think I am going to learn how to do it myself.

Really, this was more a cross-generational difference, but generational differences are also a sort of cultural difference, are they not?

June 30, 2016 - Posted by | Aging, Communication, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Generational, Parenting, Relationships, Stranger in a Strange Land | , ,


  1. Great article!

    Comment by DPNews | June 30, 2016 | Reply

  2. I’m tucking that away for later. It won’t be useful until little Twig is older but it’s good to remember…acknowledging emotions is helpful to processing them. Thanks for sharing this!

    Writing this comment from Hawaii – 4-day weekend here on our way back to the US for hubby’s grad school. It’s good to have a gradual time change when you’re changing 14 hours in total with a 5 month old…

    Comment by emmafreester | July 3, 2016 | Reply

    • LOL, any sleep is good when you have a 5 month old! 🙂 Emma, I think one of the most important things in raising sons is for them to respect women. I’ve seen too many men who think being men made them the boss, and who think women’s brains and abilities are inferior. It starts very young. And that for a boy, as well as for a girl, it’s OK to be sad 🙂

      Comment by intlxpatr | July 3, 2016 | Reply

  3. Disney/Pixar’s “Inside Out” released last year and did a great job on not explaining it was “OK” but essential to overall good mental health. It was a great movie to watch if you haven’t seen it.

    Comment by bitjockey | July 13, 2016 | Reply

  4. Have not seen it. Thanks for the recommendation, Bitjockey 🙂 How you doing?

    Comment by intlxpatr | July 13, 2016 | Reply

  5. That reminds me of an incident that happened years ago when Josh was small. I had seen my mother-in-law tell him “You’re okay; you’re okay” — when he wasn’t, and I had resolved to validate his emotions.

    But one day I was sitting outside on the front step and someone was walking by. Josh fell down — and *because someone was watching* I found myself just wanting to quiet him down. But I was able to take a breath and give him a hug and say something like, “That must have hurt.” And he cried about a minute — and then left me and started happily playing again.

    But I thought it was interesting that the presence of a complete stranger walking by almost short-circuited my good intentions.

    Comment by Sondy | July 18, 2016 | Reply

    • Good point. I think being around others does alter how we respond.

      Comment by intlxpatr | July 18, 2016 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: