Last night we got home from our son's music program, and as I tucked him into bed I sincerely, lovingly, told him I trusted him to cry himself to sleep and I would see him in the morning.
To everything there is a season, according to Ecclesiastes, and that includes seasons of mourning. Our elementary school music teacher is retiring this year. She's been teaching young kids to love music for more than 30 years--she was, in fact, MY 6th grade music teacher in this same school. Since it was her last music program, she fought tears at the end as she praised the kids and thanked the parents. Then the kids recited a poem they'd written for her and gave her flowers from her fellow teachers, she got a standing ovation from the packed theater, and her two sons (grown, married, with kids of their own and living out of state) came on-stage to give her hugs and kisses.
Nancy wasn't the only one fighting tears last night. Not by a long shot.
"Honey," I asked him, "what's wrong?"
"I will never get to see Mrs. S. again!"
I quickly reassured him that Mrs. S. would still be his music teacher for the rest of the school year, and he wiped his eyes as we headed through the crowd. He got sad again, though, when he thought about saying good-bye at the end of the year.
We've talked with our kids about it being OK to feel sad and OK to cry. We try to help them sort out which things are worth tears and which aren't. When we tucked our tired child into bed last night, he was still sad. I gently told him that crying can help your heart grieve, and that's OK. I said if he cried a while, he might feel very tired and he'd be able to go to sleep right away. I told him I trusted him to know how long he wanted to cry about saying good-bye to his beloved music teacher, and that I would see him in the morning.
This is a gift we parents can give our kids: space, permission, and guidance to grieve the things that matter.