Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Crying


There was a crying baby at the park this morning.

It was a newborn, so enveloped in the Baby Bjorn that no traces of pink or blue could be seen to give me a broader range of pronouns to work with. The mother tramped up and down the playground, following her gleeful two-year-old from swings to slide to sandbox. She bounced a little as she walked, jiggling the baby carrier, but the baby’s cries rang out unabated, loud and lusty with that little note of determination, like someone who has buckled up for an eight-hour car-ride with a few high-protein granola bars and a stack of mixed CDs. That crying was settled in for the duration.

Maybe that mother is starving her baby, I told myself, experimentally. Maybe that is a terrible mother who doesn’t know how to meet her baby’s needs.

But I knew she wasn’t. It was clear – abundantly, robustly clear – that the crying was not the mother’s fault. It wasn’t a crisis, or even a problem that needed to be fixed, a condition that could be cleared up with infant massage or Gripe Water or a dab of just the right topical anti-crying cream. The crying just was. The mother didn’t need to stop it, or fix it, or whip out a patented "solution" to it. She just needed to hold her baby and be there.

But what amazed me was that the mother seemed to know this: she appeared neither embarrassed nor panicked, just strangely peaceful as if holding this shrieking, wailing infant was the sweetest privilege in the world.

43 comments:

Pieces said...

I love it when I see mothers with confidence like that. I wish we all had a healthier dose of it in our lives.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

People were talking recently about "The No-Cry Discipline Solution." While I know what what the author was trying to convey with the title, I kept thinking: What's wrong with crying?

My own daughter cries as a way of soothing herself. If I try to intervene -- if I try to "fix" her -- then she gets more upset. So I let her be. She winds herself down.

Sober Briquette said...

Is it different personalities or different experiences that make it possible to be calm in the presence of extended, unabated infant crying? Because me? I can't stand it.

I get that there is crying for which there is no solution, or even need of a solution, and yet...I can't stand it.

Maybe her "strangely peaceful" demeanor was because she has a night out planned, or a pedicure scheduled, or at that moment someone was cleaning her toilets for her.

bubandpie said...

Jennifer - I saw that title too, and shuddered. One of the hardest lessons for me to learn as a parent is that my goal is not to prevent/eliminate crying - it is to raise responsible, mature human beings.

Veronica said...

It was me, right? You saw me.

Rock the Cradle said...

I'm so glad that mother made it to that spot of peace. So very glad.

sober briquette...there just comes a time when you realize there is nothing you can do but just be there for your wee one. Otherwise, you go crazy. And with a little two year old as well, finding that peace sometimes...is essential.

My Impling was collicky for the first 5 months of her life. And there were times when I couldn't stand it either, and would just have to put the wee one down in the crib and walk away and cry myself. Sleep deprivation does not a good mother make.

I think the thing that got me through was reminding myself to let all expectation go. I had done everything I could think of to help. I relaxed into her tears. I don't know if I would have found as much relief from a pedicure (as it was, I never had the opportunity). I'd know that when the sixty minutes were up, there would still be a crying baby waiting for me. It was better (for me)to have some way to feel peaceful in the thick of it. Otherwise, I'd never have made it.

But two years later, we are both feeling much better. And I love me a good pedicure.

nomotherearth said...

Wow, colour me impressed. I have not found that contentment in crying. I have a lot to learn.

Seattle Mamacita said...

there are always people who look at you when your baby cries as if to say "hurry up and do something" and it is very rare to find a mom like this one who is not shaken good for her...found you via serving the queens.

mcewen said...

Hmm I remember the bjorn days.
Best wishes

kittenpie said...

Oh, good gravy. I can never abide the crying - it makes my brain scream until I can make it stop. hence the pacifier...

painted maypole said...

Great insight. I was on a plane once with The May Queen when she was 6 months old, and crying unconsolably. I was in the aisle, bouncing up and down, trying to calm her. And a very wise woman walked by on her way to the restroom and all she said was "What a beautiful baby." She understood that sometimes crying is just what the baby needs to do, even when I didn't. But I will always be grateful for her.

Lawyer Mama said...

Ah, I'm always envious of mothers who can be so confident. It was easier with the second, but with the first I always felt like I had to "fix" the crying in public, even if I knew I couldn't.

Lucy said...

Good for that mom. My mother is never bothered by baby cries. She says that I was a crier and she would put me in my crib and take a walk. She figured there wasn't any sense in both of us being miserable. Now, I never took *that* approach, but I agree that the baby never crying is a short-sighted goal.

But I'll admit, I never reached a zen place like the mom you saw! Even now, my toddler's crying makes my muscles tense up so much that my mobility is severely decreased!

Beck said...

I've known mothers who have gone to ridiculous lengths to keep their children - often until six! - from crying. Sitting up with them every night until they fall asleep, for example, crouching exhausted beside their beds until midnight.
That mom sounds serene.

Patois said...

I had a crier. The older ones called him "Crying Boy" all the time. I would have loved to had seen your reaction on the faces of the folks who stared at me rather than the reactions they chose to have. (Does that make sense? I sure hope so.)

Lisa b said...

It took me a long time not to freak out when my older daughter cried. Now I am completely zen, though I wonder if the cries are just burning a hole in my psyche and I am pretending they are not.

Mimi said...

Oh wow. I wish I could have summoned that kind of calm during The Crying Months. The noise, the determination of it, as you note, well, it puts my teeth on edge. Ack. Ditto Sober Briquette, I say.

I know that crying is sometimes necessary. So I used to hide in my basement while Munchkin cried on teh 2nd floor. I'm not calm enough to let her holler in my ear. Shudder.

Virtualsprite said...

I'm with Mimi. I became totally unhinged during the "crying months" and, I must admit, I contributed to the crying a little myself.

I could have learned something from that mother... I think I still can.

kgirl said...

beyond my immediate mental response of 'stick a boob in her mouth!' crying babies throw me into a serious panic. probably because mine didn't cry for the first time until she was two months old and was being innoculated. she just never cried.

i'm in a lot of trouble if soon-to-be is different.

oh, and i'm also one of those 'ridiculous' moms who will not leave her daughter's room at night if she is crying. i'll stay until morning. it's ok with me.

Kyla said...

It isn't the crying that flusters me...that I can take. But then my mind kicks in and I think everyone is wondering why I'm not doing something about my screaming child and then my face gets hot and red and the need to fix kicks in.

Ally said...

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marian said...

I do believe that I've carried that same "strangely peaceful" demeanor in similar circumstances. Sure, there's confidence that I'm doing the right thing for my child, but I wouldn't call it serenity. More like checking out and totally disengaging whole portions of my brain(and social functioning): namely,the one that absorbs the volume of the crying, and the one that is aware that people around me are no doubt applying various interpretations and judgements to my behavior and parenting skill.

flutter said...

Isn't it, though?

Angela said...

When my 2yr old is crying my husband and I can't talk because we will just end up fighting. We both don't like it when our son is upset.

Aliki2006 said...

It took me awhile not to be bothered too much by crying. With my son I tried to prevent it at all costs; with my daughter I learned to cope with it, although I must say that the colic-induced crying of hers at a tender age made me want to scream.

urban-urchin said...

that's the kind of mom i aspire to be.

Omaha Mama said...

Wow. I wonder if that's how she felt on the inside.

Although - my own baby's crying never bothered me too much if I knew his needs were met. I just hated "inconviencing" others with the sound of it. People pleaser to a fault.

slouching mom said...

I loved Beck's adjective --

serene.

I'd like to be serene.

Emmie (Better Make It A Double) said...

How funny - I was just in the park the other day, walking up and down the sidewalk with my wailing three month old niece, in a Bjorn, no less, thinking that, you know? Crying isn't the end of the world. Babies cry, drink milk, sleep, and poop, I sure wouldn't be upset that they eat, sleep, and poop. One of my twins has a pie-hole shaped pressure valve. The other had colic. I can safely say that by now, crying babies don't phase me any more than messy diapers. I only hope that someday I can say the same about whining. Cannot. Take. Any. More. Whining. Please, God, make the whining stop already....I like taking care of my nice, because she drowns out the whining. Now I'm whining.

Alpha DogMa said...

Babies don't yet know to self-censor their emotional outbursts. Lucky little self-absorbed bastards.

With my own kids, I know when a cry is legit and when it is just 'crying for the sake of crying' and now the latter is just like white noise to me.

Kit said...

I remember that time in my children's lives. The mother is the only one who can tell the difference between 'I'm hungry', 'I'm tired', 'My nappy is dirty' and just 'I feel like crying'.

The most annoying thing is all the concerned people who come up to you and talk to the baby. 'Oh poor thing are you hungry?' or hand out advice from when they had babies.

Aimee said...

Good for her. I was never bothered by my kids crying at home, but in a public place? Forget it - I got all sweaty like I was a mule for 8 pounds of cocaine stuffed in a Baby Bjorn. I was afraid people would think I was a BAD MOM (oh no!) even though I never thought that about others when I heard a fussy baby in public. Just me and my issues again . . .

Jenifer said...

Public crying was the hardest. At home I knew I had tried everything and the baby was just crying. When we were out however, you feel those eyes burning into you and the unspoken judgments about your mothering skills.

I always found that hard. This Mom sounds a lot calmer than I would have been.

ladybug said...

I agree with Kyla and Jenifer. When I was at home, I could accept that sometimes my daughter was crying "just because" and it had to run its course. But in public, I became flustered because I thought (and perhaps I was wrong) that people were judging me. Silly eh? I hope to have greater confidence in my public parenting skills the second time around.

melody is slurping life said...

Good for that mother. I truly believe as moms we too often succumb to "hush the baby" for the sake of the onlookers. Babies are human...all humans simply need a good cry now and then.

ewe are here said...

It's funny, I never thought I'd be good at this mothering thing, but sometimes I don't think I do too badly. (Other times, well, we won't go there....)

But the crying... I know this feeling. Sometimes they just cry and you just have to be there quietly and let them.

Susanne said...

Wow. I only could have mustered that state of equilibrum for about twenty minutes. But then I'm told that one becomes more resilient with the second child...

The Small Scribbler said...

One of the hardest lessons for me to learn as a parent is that my goal is not to prevent/eliminate crying - it is to raise responsible, mature human beings

This is the best part of your post...hidden here in the comment section. And Veronica's "It was me, right? You saw me. made me laugh out loud.

Kate

Christina said...

Mira is a crier, and sometimes I can't do anything to make her happy. I try to be zen and let her cry without freaking out, but in public it's very hard.

And thank you for not being one of those people to shoot a dirty look or say, "Is your mommy not feeding you?" Even though it wasn't me, I appreciate moms who understand, because that mom with the crying baby could easily be me.

Lady M said...

Like so many others, I'm more 'serene" about crying when it's just the two of us. When there are others watching (listening). . not so much. Too self-conscious, I guess.

bren j. said...

"Topical anti-crying cream."
Seriously.
Where can I get some??? :S

Di said...

At the risk of being labeled a curmudgeon (and perhaps with two former babies, now 11 and 14, I'm entitled!), where does the serenity of the mother of the crying baby cross over to insensitivity or even rudeness? Apparently she was at a park where children were playing and noise was expected. What if she was dining, with baby, at a nice restaurant? What if I paid for a sitter so that I could enjoy the quiet and ambience of a lovely dinner. In this situation (now, don't get me started...I don't think children should be in restaurants that don't have a kids' menu and balloons until they are 16!), I would expect the mother to either quickly quiet the baby or take him/her outside. What if it's at a movie...even a G-rated kids' movie and the mom brought a toddler or two along with the now crying baby? I have paid an absurd amount of money for me and my kids to see the movie, eat the popcorn, etc. and now we can't hear the dialogue.

Any thoughts?

bubandpie said...

Di - When Bub was one, a friend arranged a get-together at what turned out to be a very nice restaurant - the kind that didn't actually have high-chairs. It was very stressful for me - there's a much higher standard of behaviour in an environment like that than there would be in a "family" restaurant.

That said, I enjoy seeing babies and children wherever I go. I don't really subscribe to the idea that there ought to be "adults only" spaces where one can be insulated from the presence of children. I would much rather live in a culture like that of Spain or Portugal, where it's taken for granted that children are welcome anywhere.