Cry Baby

    The summer I was five, my mother had me tested to see if I was ready to attend school. You see, I would cry when I got overwhelmed. Now that’s probably called social anxiety but back then it was, “get over yourself and do it.” The person testing me told my mom to send me to first grade as I had a high IQ and would be bored in kindergarten. My mom said, “but she’ll cry.” And the tester said, “Would you rather her cry and be bored or cry and learn something?”

    So, at age five with a November birthday, off to first   grade I  went. I had to attend the private school in town as the  public one would have made me attend kindergarten. 

    And I cried. 
    I can remember trying not to cry. Wanting not to cry. Pleading with my body not to cry. But my chest would tighten. My nasal passages would heat up and tears flowed.

You might need to know that I was a tiny thing. Light blond hair. Big greenish/blue eyes. Weighed less and was shorter than the average first grader at this school, and not just because of my age. 

Robin’s first grade school picture. Happy Times! LOL

    The principal of the school spoiled me. When I cried, he’d come get me out of class, set me in his lap at his desk, and read books to me. This school had the drink machines where the little paper cup dropped down, it filled with rabbit-pellet ice (the good stuff, like you get at Sonic!), and then the soft drink. Well, he’d buy me a mountain dew and some candy, and we’d make a rather nice afternoon of it. And yes, today, he’d probably be accused of more than just that, but I remember feeling very safe in his arms and I didn’t cry when he was with me.

His secretary finally called my mom and the two of them had to come in and have a meeting with the principal. After that he was not allowed to come get me out of class. The secretary has since told me that it was sad to watch and hear. I’d be crying for him from the classroom and he’d be pacing up and down the hallway wanting to run in and comfort me. 

    The next year I moved to the public school and my mother was one of my teachers. I still cried. Still small for my age, I couldn’t stand for anyone to look me in the eye. That was a major trigger. I didn’t cry so much in my mom’s classroom but in the math or the other class, I did. I might still cry while doing math … That teacher was awesome though. She made me stay in from recess so she could walk me through the work step-by-step. I can remember sitting by her at the back table as she would help me. It was the first year (1970) they integrated teachers and she was the only Black teacher in this teaching group of three (with my mom being one of the other two). We kept in touch for years, and this teacher even sent me cards for high school and college graduation. 

   In third grade, the crush of my dreams handed me a paper and I cried. Now, I have to tell you the entire time he was walking through the class handing out papers I was telling myself not to cry, not to shed a tear, not to get upset, but the second he passed the paper to me, I burst into tears. My parents spanked me with a belt, put me on restriction, did everything they could to snap me out of it, but nothing worked. 

    By fourth grade, I’d finally grown out of it, as they say. I would still get that anxious feeling at times, but I was able to hold back the tears. I was still small. Big people intimidated me. My best friends were tiny too, so that helped (we are all still around 5’1” or so tall). And I controlled those tears. 

    And yet, even today, I can feel this overwhelming sense of doom (and it’s not menopause but that gives me the same feeling) and the sense of not fitting in. I have to really make myself concentrate and finish a project. I get distracted easily. I tell myself I have COVID brain and it’ll all go away once this pandemic is over, but I think more meditation and yoga are needed. 

    How are y’all doing? Really. Barely making it? Doing grand? Need someone to talk with? 

    Be kind to those that seem to have it together when they may be truly holding their tears at bay. 

    I’m sending you calm, reason, love, and logic vibes. I hope they reach you through this world wide web we spend so much time on. 


Robin Hillyer-Miles lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and writes romance novels. She’s finished two full-length novels and one short story. The short story is published. She is STILL editing the Cathy’s Corner and Unintended. She has however finished watching a ton of British mystery shows on the telly. Bless her heart!

Visit her on Facebook at: 

10 replies
  1. Saralyn
    Saralyn says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Robin. I was a bit of a "crybaby," too. Now I think of it as having a soft heart for people, not a bad trait for a writer, eh?

  2. Donnell Ann Bell
    Donnell Ann Bell says:

    Brilliant, important blog. Every child is different and reacts differently in situations. Sounds to me you were blessed. Children have different maturity levels and do not progress at the same speed. I remember those belts. That's one thing I'm glad we've done away with. Saralyn raises an excellent point too. These internalizations and memories are so important to a writer.

  3. T.K. Thorne
    T.K. Thorne says:

    Thank you for sharing! I had a problem articulating my thoughts when I was younger. Not at home, where I was encouraged to speak my mind, but if a teacher asked a question, I often could write the answer but not find the words to speak it. It was not until I was in a one-on-one class situation with a college professor that I had a particularly bad "attack" and confessed my problem. Her response was, "Well, we'll just wait until you find the words." Her gentle acceptance and patience with me modeled how I could be with myself. I gave myself permission to stop and find the words I needed. I also learned if I am speaking to or with others that they are more than willing to help with find a word or phrase. I only have to ask.

  4. Shari Randall
    Shari Randall says:

    Thank you for sharing, Robin. It's so sad the way we try to force children into boxes simply because of their age or their ability, instead of taking the whole person into account.

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