Sometimes, babies cry. They do. Even when we’re the most attentive, most attuned parents. And all we can do is to hold them and do our best to soothe them as they cry out their frustrations.
My son is five months old now. Today, he cried for nearly an hour before he fell asleep. I held him and rocked him and rubbed his back, alternately offering the breast and walking around my house. He was tired, overly tired. Cutting a tooth, too. And he didn’t want a nap, even though he was desperate for one. Two older sisters will do that to you – his world is opening up to him at this age, and it’s far too exciting to sleep.
So, he cried.
When his sisters were babies and crying like this, I was frantic to try to get them to stop crying. And I felt like a failure when I couldn’t. After all, isn’t that what mothers are for?
Actually, no. Well, yes, we are supposed to soothe. We are supposed to nurture. We are supposed to love. But loving our children isn’t always about fixing every hurt. We can try, surely, but as our children age, there will be more and more moments when all we can do is to offer our support as they cry; we can’t take away the pain of broken toy or a sprained ankle, nor a friend’s betrayal or a lost teenage love. And as much as I’d like to, I can’t take away my baby’s exhaustion-laden upset. Think of it as practice.
Rather, I strive to be understanding and for my children to grow up knowing that they will feel hurt and angry at times, and that’s OK. That I accept all of their emotions. I don’t want them to feel judged; I want them to feel supported. I don’t want them to suppress their upset feelings and act happy when they’re miserable; I want them to open up to me. I want them to know I love all of them, even the uncomfortable emotions that I can’t fix.
I’m not always good at this. I falter. I struggle with inappropriate expectations with especially my oldest child. But I’m learning and applying. I’m not perfect, and this is a good lesson for my kids, too. We all hurt sometimes, and sometimes no one can fix it, but we all can do with a little more support. A “I’m here for you, even if I can’t do it for you.”