Since the very first moment we hold our child in our arms, most parents want them to be happy. We sacrifice ourselves for their contentedness in every way. It becomes our life mission to feed them on demand, change them when they’re wet, ensure they’re well rested and well cuddled. In fact, I know from personal experience that when a baby cries the world outside of that event stops. How can any parent allow their baby (or in my case babies) to cry?
I’m sure I’m not the only parent who has sat on the side of the road 5 km from home to breastfeed my crying baby who could obviously not last a moment longer.
And how many of us, night after night, have dragged ourselves from a sound sleep to stumble into the darkened night and retrieve a dummy (soother or pacifier) that our precious bundle of joy hadn’t missed for the last two hours.
And why? The baby cried!!
Now lest you think me heartless, be assured I’m all for responding to a crying baby. It’s the way nature intended that they let us know their basest of needs. What other way does an innocent tot have of letting us know that all is not right in their world?
I wonder, though, if some of us need a gentle reminder that we need to back off a little as a newborn babe becomes older. I think it’s good to give our children a chance of self-expression and perspective and our self a little break!
The first time I realized this was when my first little boy, Riley, was approximately four months old. Every night he would wake around 3am. He would cry and I would stumble out of bed on command to feed him. It never took long, but my all-important sleep (every new mother understands this!) was interrupted every night.
This routine can go on for many new (and second time) parents for months. On the night in question I think I must have reached the point of exhaustion. My baby was now four months old. I was definitely over nighttime interruptions. When Riley cried I remember thinking “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding….” and laying there feeling far from enthusiastic.
I rolled over and groaned.
Riley stopped briefly and cried again.
Now I don’t know who gave in first (to sleep I mean) but the next thing I knew it was morning. That was a surprise!! The very next night we both slept through the night because the baby had been allowed to have it’s say and, as the problem wasn’t serious, our routine had been reset and re-established.
A wise man once told me that he remembered crying as a little boy and the comfort that it gave him. After all those years he remembered…. and I realized that I could remember those childhood moments too. The times I was so tired that it just felt good to be miserable. The moments when life had done me wrong and I needed to feel sorry for myself.
I still have them sometimes. I feel cranky and grumpy and just very, very tired. On occasion I pass a screaming baby in a shopping mall and think, “yes, I know just how you feel”.
My second child was children... I had twins. It's a great leveller. I didn't have a choice but to let one, or the other, of my babies cry on a regular basis. While at times it was distressing in retrospect I found the benefits to out weigh the detriment. They became surprisingly calm and well rounded little people who cried when their needs were real.
Maybe we are too hasty to pander to our children and hush their expressive cries. They don’t always need our intervention. They just need to be given the gift of expression.
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