“If a problem has no solution,” said the 9th President of Israel, Shimon Perez, “it may not be a problem, but a fact – not to be solved, but to be coped with over time.”
Growing up in a city where nearly 50% of the children live below the poverty rate and the violent crime rate is 136% the national average, not being a permanent resident of any particular country for years, and struggling ceaselessly with depression and anxiety all helped me to come to terms with the idea that while I might dislike something and want to change it, I often can’t.
If a problem is something with a solution, then you likely have far fewer problems than you think.
These can involve things that are happening inside of us. There are some days when you can’t be forgiving of yourself, when you feel sad, when you feel taken advantage of. These can involve things that are happening outside of ourselves. It can be the weather, the price of an item that we want that we can’t afford, or our child’s mood.
As parents, we desperately want to soothe our children and their wounds, even if we know that it is not the best thing for them.
Even if we know we can’t.
In particular, we want very much to stop our sweet, innocent little babies from crying. We believe that it is an infants way of communicating, and we always want to know what it is that they’re trying to tell us. We want to help them.
It is a babies way of communicating, but I’m not always communicating something that I need, or even necessarily want. Sometimes I just want to be listened to and looked at, and sometimes—honestly, with my history, many, many, many times—I have just wanted to cry.
While it is uncomfortable for us, sometimes there is nothing we can do to sooth our babies crying. We check to find out what the problem is. We try to feed them, and they won’t latch. Check their diaper and it’s all dry. Feel their skin and they’re not too warm or cold. Check to see if there are hairs wrapped around their fingers, if their socks are too tight, if there’s a bug bite we haven’t noticed. We bathe them and walk them around the house and rock them. None of it works.
If there is no solution to your baby’s crying, then it is not a problem.
There is a Period of PURPLE Crying. This inconsolability is a period that all breastfed animals go through and is nothing to be worried about. Perhaps your baby has colic (crying for more than 3 hours per day, for at least 3 days per week, for more than 3 weeks), or perhaps they don’t.
It’s hard to drop the pretense of being able to take away all of the bad feelings that our infant is going to have, but it is good practice. These situations will multiply as your child ages, until they’re adults, their problems are completely theirs, and the best you can do is listen to them. It starts now.
The best thing that you can do for yourself is to stop thinking that your baby’s crying is a problem. I don’t mean ignore it (you wouldn’t), or that you shouldn’t think your baby is the problem (you don’t), but that the crying isn’t the problem and neither are you.
Once you let go of the possibility of a solution, perhaps you will be able to relax. If you can’t relax while thinking about it, if sitting with them in their pain is too stressful, then don’t do it.
For me, I check to see if all of baby’s needs are taken care of. Then I strap him on and walk around while reading, cooking, cleaning, eating, or talking to his father. I don’t sit there and focus on it. I can’t. But what I can do is continue to comfort him by having him close to my body. What I can do is remain calm for him. What I can do is accomplish something else and not feel victimized by this moment. I do not need to let my emotions escalate with his because I refuse to accept the situation.
I can accept that his crying is not a problem; it’s a fact.
1) What stops me from accepting my child’s crying as a fact?
2) How do I want people to respond to me when I have intense emotions? Can I create that for my child?
Pick one thing in your life that you view as a problem, maybe something much easier than your child’s distress. Each time you try to solve it, do a vinyasa, pinch yourself, or pick some other forcing function to cut off the automatic behavior.
Each time I feel annoyed with the fact that my husband leaves clothes all over the house after I’ve told him a million times not to, I am going to tidy up the silverware drawer.