I discovered something shocking the other day. My wife and I are living with a Babysaurus Rex. This is a prehistoric animal that has developed a cry so powerful that it can stop conversation and traffic. Its cry is so powerful that it can even stop sound.
If you’re a mom or a dad, you know the cry I mean. The huge intake of air, the mouth open in a perfect O, the tear-logged eyes, the quivering tongue and, for a moment, just for a freaky beat, the sound of no sound at all from the infant’s frantically working mouth, as though the silent cry of the Babysaurus could only be heard in another dimension populated by more compassionate parents. Then reality rushes in, the cry fills the world, triggering car alarms, breaking windows, scaring the cat, twisting your gut and letting everyone within earshot know how much you really do suck at being a parent.
A little after one such cry, Jack White’s rasp came on my internet station singing ‘The Hardest Button to Button,’ a White Stripes song about a baby named Baby who has a terrible toothache:
He started crying
It sounded like an earthquake
And that earthquake cry delivers a crushing blow to the parent:
I had a brain
That felt like pancake batter
Yeah, I know what Jack’s talking about. The Babysaurus can take you down, make you tired, and you want to assert your authority. Which is ridiculous because he’s only a baby. But still … I think there’s an ecology to families, a subtle power dance. Those who shout the loudest should not be awarded power. When my kid goes all Rush Limbaugh on me I should not have to do what he says. Look at this picture of him. He looks like one of the guys in Goodfellas, like Paul Sorvino slicing garlic in the prison kitchen, running a crime syndicate as he does a stretch in the federal pen. That’s power and babies are powerful, too.
But in a family, in order for there to be peace, not everybody can get what they want all of the time.
We want Babysaurus to understand this non-verbally, so we have brought in a beautiful and kind professional folk singer to perform ‘Give Peace a Chance,’ every afternoon, and soon we will have Mick Jagger and the Stones perform ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction‘ in our living room. Our hope is that the little one will grasp the post-modernist irony of it. ‘You don’t always get what you want. But you get what you need.’ You getting that, Mr. Babysaurus? Maybe when the full chorus kicks in: ‘You don’t always get what you want. But you get what you need.’
Some parents teach their children sign language so they can communicate when they’re hungry. I am working with our Babysaurus to lift his index finger and say ‘Garçon?’ when he’s hungry, and when finished, say ‘L’addition!’ It’s going really badly. He’d rather explode into screams.
I don’t know about you, but loud screaming accompanied by angry farting and copious crying takes me to my edge. I get into arguments with my wife and our parental compassion system runs off the road and into a ditch. This is when, from time to time, we invoke the Cry It Out Clause. The Clause stipulates that when we have fed, jiggled, soothed, changed, discussed, shared, sang, talked, and negotiated and still the Babysaurus howls, we must let him Cry It Out. Usually in his crib. It lasts about five minutes, and he falls asleep. When he wakes up, he smiles at me. No hard feelings. You see? I just press this special button on his car seat and he seems delighted.
Maybe attachment parents would say we should hold the Babysaurus until he quiets down, even if it means denying ourselves food, bathroom breaks, civility and sanity. To me that means the balance of power has tipped too far. The Babysaurus would be ruling the roost.
Is that how it should be? What is the balance? It would be great to hear your thoughts – just click the red Leave a Comment link below.