Tuesday, September 20, 2011

…If they cry there is a reason…


I have never been able to let my babies “just” cry. All my life I have been exposed to opinions, spoken or written, about how “crying at night” helps babies get used to sleeping through the night, at nap time – or in times of distress. I do not believe a parent should deprive little ones of feedings and other forms of care to achieve a goal, heralded by many, that can cause psychological, emotional, physical and mental distress or trauma.

If a baby cries there is a reason. A child has limited options. Regardless of what the problem may be, the form of communication between baby and parent is singular…crying. I often find it hard to sleep at night. When I have a bad dream, I get up and walk around and say to myself, “It wasn’t real,” until I believe it. When I am hungry, I make toast. When I am uncomfortable, I roll from one side to the other. When I can’t turn my brain off, I read. When I am in pain, I take medicine. When I itch, I scratch. When I am lonely, I snuggle up to someone I love. When I am depressed, I ask people who love me to listen to me. When any of these things happen to a baby, they cry. Until a child is old enough to make it “their job” to take care of these things – it is “our job.”

I do not believe that a tiny infant, or even an older child, is trying to fiendishly manipulate, control or enslave a parent by expressing their needs or wants. I believe that children have real needs and wants – real ones. Their cry is their voice – their only voice.

An experience: My husband and I were required to travel for his business for a couple of days. We left our child, who was a little under one year of age, with someone we trusted. The people we left our child with had little ones of their own to care for and, because of that, were unable to care for our child as we had hoped. To my dismay and horror, when I returned they told me that our child cried the whole time we were gone. They said they finally laid him in a playpen and “just” let him cry because they didn’t know what else to do. This child, upon our return, glued himself to my body and “soul” for years after that. He literally had to be next to me every second. When I would drive, I would have to set him as close to me as was possible. When I would cook, he would be on the counter, cracking eggs open for me. If we were in public, he would never leave my side and did not want anyone talking to him. For his emotional security it was required that we become one person. I remembered, gratefully, my mother’s advice to “wear your babies on your hip for two years and saturate them with love.” This was not just a good idea. In this case, it was a necessity.

I know that this one experience changed my child’s life forever. Imagine the fear – all of a sudden away from the familiar arms of his mother - now in a foreign land – an unfamiliar playpen -deprived of the love and care, and perhaps even the physical nourishment needed – with no evidence that his present situation would ever change. It must have felt like a hopeless eternity in the dark. This was damage that would never be undone. As the mother, I have seen the negative effects even into his adulthood. My personal heartache is something that has never been undone, either.

Fear is the outcome of unmet needs and wants in a small child. Making a small child secure by meeting his wants and needs, at a very young age, relieves the fear and allows the child to be able to devote his life to learning and growing. He does not have devote all his attention to wondering if someone will come, as he lays there, completely helpless, on his back, waving his arms and legs around, crying. He knows his mother or father will always be there for him. He then can stretch and work and learn and laugh and become a child of wonder and joy, relieved of the burden of fear – full of faith in a bright future.

Love is the answer. How can deprivation of love in the form of withholding the care we should give be the answer? Despite all the literature or talk show opinions, or fad-parenting ideas, there is not one person alive that doesn’t know, deep down in their soul, that letting a child “just” cry is wrong. I have heard of mothers going to other parts of their homes, curling up in a corner and plugging their ears --- crying – trying to adhere to the newest, most popular idea being circulated among new mothers. God gave your child to you – not to “them”. He gave you the keys to raise your child. We should trust our hearts, listen to our own inner voice, listen to God. Every child has different emotional and physical needs. The freedom that comes from trusting yourself and God while you raise a child is a liberation of the heart and soul that can only bless the lives of your children and family.

If they cry, pick them up. Look into their eyes. Listen to your heart. Your will discover your child’s voice speaking to you. You will hear and respond and be able to raise a secure, loving and happy child.


Sharon said...

Karen, Thank you!!! I always admired and looked up to you when we lived in Fremont. You are truly an amazing woman!

Katherine said...

If you had let me cry as a child I would have been WAY tizzed at you :)

I Love this. Crying can be hard on the hearer, but I'm sure it's much harder on the producer of the tears.