parents

"Thank you Michael Clarke, for showing my son it's okay to cry."

A mother thanks Michael Clarke for showing her son that “being a man” doesn’t mean never shedding a tear.

From the moment they can understand us, we teach and tell our boys to ‘be brave’ every time they feel like expressing emotion.

“Brave” meaning they should internalise their pain, be it either physical or emotional. We tell them to be “strong” and lead by example, especially when they have others looking up to them for guidance. Even when they fall and scrape their knee, we – not only as parents, but as a society – tell them “toughen up” and  “get over it”.

On the weekend, I opened Facebook and saw the following status update on my friend Kate Hunter’s wall:

“I admire the honesty surrounding the loss of Phillip Hughes. Not so long ago it wouldn’t have done at all for the captain of the Aussie cricket team to cry for a mate, and say how much he loved him, publicly. Glad our boys can see this.”

Yes, our boys SHOULD be seeing that to be devastated, to be upset and displaying this publicly is being brave.

This was highlighted on Saturday, when Michael Clarke broke down and visibly wept as he gave a speech on behalf his Australian Cricket Team, discussing the terrible loss of friend and fellow team mate, Phil Hughes.

His personal devastation was palpable.

I defy anyone to watch that and not shed a tear. It was by complete accident that my two sons and I were sitting on the couch when this came on the TV over the weekend. I wasn’t trying to shield them from it, but it certainly wasn’t something I would have thought to make them watch.

My seven-year-old son turned to me and asked, “Why is he crying, Mum?” to which my 12-year-old answered, “because he just lost his best mate”. This made my heart sing a little because to a child, their instant reaction was to simply accept that this man was grieving and that there was no shame in him doing so, so publicly.

And yet, we are consistently telling children how “brave” they are for NOT crying. Yet why is it brave to not be able to show your immediate and honest emotions?

For example, my son had some fairly intensive work done on his teeth not so long ago and the dentist told him to “squeeze Mum’s hand each time it hurt and try not to cry”. He did this although I could see the distress he was feeling and even heard him yelp, yet he was trying to keep calm for me, so that I didn’t feel upset.

Bern with her son Jack.
Bern with her son Jack.
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I was alarmed that not only was my son physically trying to repress his pain in public, it became abundantly clear to me on Saturday, after watching Clarke’s speech, that my other son was also not comfortable showing too much emotion in public.

He was practicing his farewell speech, one he has to deliver tonight to the school assembly. He made it half way through it before he started to sob. It took me by surprise, he had seemed so excited about moving on to High School that I’d forgotten that he was also going through a very large change in his life. That he’s about to leave behind the entire group of beautiful friends that he’d made and move onto somewhere very foreign to him. And he was quite simply, scared.

I gave him a hug and he calmed down but not before saying “I just have to make it through on the speech without crying, just like Michael Clarke told himself, ‘do your job’, I need to do mine.” I squeezed him tightly and told him that he really didn’t have to do anything at all, that like Michael Clarke, to be brave, to be strong, he just had show his emotions. If that meant he was sad when he read it, if that meant he had to cry, then that was fine too.

michael clarke crying
Michael Clarke at a press conference.

I want my boys to know that it’s not only perfectly fine to show emotion, it’s encouraged. And when men like Michael Clarke, a man who has achieved at top level in his respected field do this, it helps boys and men in our country to understand that it is perfectly okay.

So I want to say thank you, Michael Clarke.

Thank you for showing my boys that it’s okay to cry and more importantly, it okay to do so publicly. That showing these emotions in front of others does not make you weak, that it is in fact, one of the bravest things anyone can do.

Were you moved by the open emotion the Australian Cricket Team has shown in grieving for their mate? 

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