The Best Advice I’ve Been Given
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given about parenting came from our first pediatrician, whom I loved. I’ve blogged several times over the years about what an awesome doctor this woman was, but perhaps the thing that I loved most about her was when I went to see her when Bean was about two or three months old. He was crying. Like, every day. It was like a clock. Every day from 4:00 until 6:00pm, that dude wailed, whined, and whinnied. He was miserable. “Something’s wrong,” I told my pediatrician. “This can’t be normal.”
Thankfully, she didn’t shoo me away or tell me I was being silly. She did a complete little physical on Bean (even though she’d just seen him for vaccinations not a week earlier). She looked him over from head to toe, asked me about his eating habits, asked me about his bowel movements, asked me about everything she could think of. Ant there was nothing. Nothing that got her attention or seemed like it was a problem.
Finally, she looked at me with a sympathetic smile and said very kindly, “You know, Momma, sometimes babies just cry.” This was not what I had intended to hear. It wasn’t what I was prepared for. I was prepared to solve any problem my baby confronted. Gas? I had leg exercises. Rash? I had ointment. Cold? I had a humidifier. Running nose? I had tissues. Whatever it was, I was prepared. Or I was ready to become prepared. If there was a problem, I would have the solution. BECAUSE I WAS THE MOTHER, DARN IT! But a baby who cries for no reason? I didn’t have an answer for that.
There was no solution because there didn’t appear to be a problem. I sat in the tiny doctors office for a second, dumbfounded. “But, what do you DO if there’s no reason they are crying? I’ll do ANYTHING!” “Well,” she said. “You hold them and rock them. Or you swaddle them and let them swing. Or you walk with them outside. Or you walk with them inside. Or you take them for a ride in the car. Or you sit on the front porch and drink lemonade. Basically, you do whatever you can to make them happy, and when that doesn’t work, you just sit with them while they are unhappy.”
Huh. Well, that’s something that hadn’t occurred to me. “Sometimes, part of parenting is just being there when they are upset. You may not be able to fix the problem, but you can go through it with them. And that starts at infancy,” she said.
Only now that I have survived two newborns, two babies, two toddlers, and one preschooler do I really understand how wise that pediatrician was. She was absolutely right. As parents, we want to solve the problem. But sometimes there isn’t a problem we can solve. It’s just something we have to go through WITH our children.
As newborns, that might be colic (like with Gracie, which I thought was going to kill me, not to mention her…). With toddlers that might be a temper tantrum. With preschoolers that might be learning to take turns or to share. With school-aged kids that might be feeling left out. And on up the line. I imagine the role of sitting with my child as they go through something will never stop. I know it certainly never did for my dad and it still hasn’t with my mom.
Yes, sometimes babies cry. They cry at home, at bedtime, in public, in restaurants, in groceries stores, in libraries, in church… pretty much everywhere you go. Babies cry. And when we can solve their problem and make it all better, we feel like SuperMomma. But when there is no problem to solve and we have to sit there rocking them while they wail, we usually feel like failures. But let me tell you a secret. The success is that you were there with them, not that you fixed the problem. Being there is the objective – at the very beginning and throughout their lives.
So don’t fret when your wee one has a meltdown for no apparent reason and you don’t feel like you have the tools to do anything about it. Do what you can, and then just be there with them. As my pediatrician said, that’s really the best parenting there is.