"You Are My Personal Pacifier."

July 16, 2013

Notable Stats

Edible Body Parts (EBP) – The number of body parts a parent has for the soothing and entertainment of an infant (does not have to be an infant).

Gnaw Rate (GR) – The speed by which a gnawing child moves until he or she hits bone.

A pacifier is a noble concept. One we would like our kids to embrace when thinking globally. It is the effort to create a world of calm. A place of peace. A term that has been passed on from the diplomatic tables of early settlers to various devices we use to calm our children. Nevertheless, the goal remains the same, to take the edge and stress out of life.

Despite our view that “carry-able” beings are living a life of Nirvana, it has become clear that being a baby is a stressful ordeal. Gas bubbles, separation anxiety, Yorkshire Terriers that tower over you, temperature-specific needs. When elements like these plague your world, life gets hard and it may be so hard that a well-timed pat on the back or being sung “Itsy Bitsy Spider” for the tenth time, may not get it done.

A parent is therefore in a quandary. You often are faced with the challenge of needing to soothe your child and also teaching your child how to soothe him or herself. Then to add to the challenge, your child may shun the most obvious and convenient solution just because the only word they like is “no.” Hunger is often solved by eating, thirst is usually quenched by drinking, delirious exhaustion is resolved by going to bed. But this is a rational construct; if they have become so mad at our “forcing” them to a state of hunger, thirst, or exhaustion, that they must express their disgust even when you are offering the solution in arm’s reach. We know if they drink this water we are offering, glory can be had. But they are often slapping that sippy cup out of your hand to make a statement. They have crossed over. They now will hurt themselves to prove a point. It was not thirst, it was thirst for a 34 degree glass of seltzer water and we missed the importance of the fine print. And I am too tired to drink it anyway….

How do you get off the irrational child merry-go-round? Maybe, as in our friend’s case, you offer your arm to your 7 month old or maybe finger to gnaw on. Let them eat on a key body part to gain peace. Or maybe, as my wife had to do, you need to rub your daughter’s feet in a contorted position while reaching back to the car seat behind you, knowing that the moment you stop rubbing, the wailing begins. 

Comfort, it would seem, is just as much when you do it as it is what you are doing. And even more important is who is doing the comforting. We never could reconcile in our mind that when the babysitter is putting our kids to sleep, we get the straight “A” bedtime report card when we get back. We particularly enjoyed the one night when the babysitter told us. “No, he said he was tired, went upstairs, brushed his teeth, put on his pajamas, crawled into bed and fell asleep.” We assumed she was talking about our dog, but no, it was the same child that needs a routine as long as and as involved as Cirque D’ Soleil just to get in his bed. 

In part, I don’t fault him for his expectations. He is the oldest and the oldest in our case was by himself for 14 months before his sister came along. We could concoct a bedtime routine that would have put a Broadway production of Les Miserables to shame. He got a lotion rub down, milk bottle bedtime snacks, water cups for his entertainment, music, rocking, stroking, and a personal song every single night. So he expects only what he had before, even though he gives the babysitter a hall pass.

What made it tough for him was that for some time, his baby sister was unloaded into her crib like an extra load of gravel for your driveway. And she fell asleep on her own despite this fact. The soothing tactics or necessities went out the window with our third born. She was on her own and ironically, she was the easiest to go down. However, now that she smells two years old, she is now realizing that the Earth continues to revolve after she is put in her crib (and her siblings are still awake). For this she is not happy and now fighting her crib sentence.

As parents, we soothe. We kiss away boo-boos, we stand in the doorway of their room to let them know it will all be OK. All in a race to make sure sleep is high on their priority list for being healthy and alert when the morning alarm goes off. Off course, we wonder if a permanent babysitting solution would make the nighttime drama go away. The zombies, the itchy sheets, the needlenose sharks from an episode of the Octonauts that somehow live inside their dresser. Apparently, everything is much more scary when Mom or Dad is handling bedtime. But at a certain age, I cannot give you my arm to chew on so you can feel better nor do I have a degree in oceanography to explain why Cookie-Cutter sharks don’t like hiding under beds.

- Doug Glanville

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