Children are not slates,
Where we record our noble discoveries
That they might be passed on
To the next generation
And live forever,
Nor are they robots
We program with our liturgies,
That they may move in sync
With our agendas
And what we think is true.
Children are like saplings,
With life beyond our touch;
We nurture them
And care for them
But do not choose their form.
A child grows best
Not with letters engraved
In her branches,
But with the gentle raindrops
I’ve seen something sad, a lot. I’ve seen it in secular families, Christian families, *even* homeschool families. (side note: that isn’t to say that homeschoolers are superior to those who aren’t. I’ve heard we’re the cream of the crop, but lately, I haven’t often seen something to impress me amongst homeschool grads. Sad, but true.) It’s the act of dehumanizing babies and children. Degrading them till they’re simply blobs we take care of. Just maybe, if these mothers thought about it, they’d change their actions. Perhaps they don’t premeditate it and decide that babies aren’t really humans. But at any rate, actions show better than un-thought beliefs.
There’s dealing with a fussy little one. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve observed or heard about (sometimes, unashamedly, from the mother’s own mouth!) something similar to this situation: A baby is fussy. However, said baby is fed and changed, so the exasperated mother puts them in a car seat or similar contraption and says, “I’ve already fed and changed him, so if he’s going to cry, he might as well be down!” WHAT?! Seriously? It’s obvious to me that there are at least a few other physical discomforts to be aware of, such as tiredness, illness, teething, etc. (and being blessed with a baby who was difficult to get to sleep, I’m fully aware that all baby’s can’t just fall asleep at the drop of a pin because you want them to!) But let’s just assume none of those are true. There are still other needs. Babies are humans- and basically, that means they have emotional needs, too. That means they get lonely, like you and I. It means that sometimes for no particular reason, they need to be held, comforted, and whispered to. It means that sometimes, no matter what “fun” thing you’d rather be doing, they need your full attention.
The attitudes of so many mothers in this situation make me think of a strictly functional marriage. One where the husband pays the bills, the wife cooks the meals and keeps house. Everyone’s basic physical needs are taken care of- she has a home, he gets fed. Would you think the wife unreasonable if she was discontent? If she longed for a relationship….for conversation and companionship? Of course not- we consider those valid needs. Likewise, we’d consider the husband’s needs for companionship, sex, etc., perfectly valid. Because somehow, when we’re talking about adults, it’s okay to have emotional needs.
There might be times for putting a screaming baby down. I know it gets wearing to deal with a fussy baby for hours and hours. You might need a minute or two to collect yourself so you can better nurture and have greater compassion for your little one. The point is that we shouldn’t discard a baby’s emotional needs as being non existent. Putting a crying baby down should enable you to more fully meet their needs in a minute, not just be an act of neglect.
Another situation/attitude I’ve observed quite a bit, is that if a baby’s content down by themselves, they’re fine to stay down. Lots of moms have commented, “Well, she’s such an easy baby, I don’t need to use a carrier. She’s fine on the floor or in her car seat.” If a baby will be happy in their car seat through the grocery trip, they see no need to take them out. If they’ll sit there while you make dinner, they see no need to put the extra hassle into holding the baby.
And this makes me think of taking advantage of an easy-going non-demanding spouse. Like my husband….I could totally get my way about anything if I wanted to, and never meet his needs, because he just won’t demand. But that doesn’t strike me as a very good reason to use it to my advantage. Just because your spouse has an extra-large servant’s heart, isn’t a very good reason to crush and punish them.
It’s okay for your baby to play by itself. I put Vivi on the bed by herself when I go to the bathroom. Once baby’s start exploring, they love to be independent and seek their own adventures. I know eventually, Viviana will get there, and she’ll be running away from me. I’ll continue to arrange my day so that we spend lots of time together, but she will be gaining independence, which is natural. In the long run, I want my children to be independent.
However, if we want our babies/children to develop optimally, to thrive, to feel loved, to be confident, we need to seek actively to meet even the needs of the “good” babies. They might not demand your attention, but like any human, they do need it in order to develop to their fullest potential.
You may hold/wear your fussier babies more than some of your others, and that’s okay. Some babies do have greater needs. Just don’t overuse your ability to plop a baby here or there. Remember that you’re helping your baby to thrive emotionally when you choose to pull them into what you’re doing, whether or not they’re fussy.
I don’t want to judge your parenting style- especially if you’ve thoroughly thought out your parenting beliefs. I’d just like for moms (and dads) to consider the fact that their babies and children are humans with emotional needs. I’d like for them to understand that a baby’s needs go beyond dry bums and full tummies. I would like to see a generation of children reach their fullest potential because they had loving, investing parents standing behind (or beside) them, cheering them on, sharing life, being a friend.