In the dream I was in a crowd. Despite the noise, I clearly heard a baby crying somewhere. No one else seemed to notice. The sound cut through me. People were packed together and making progress in any direction was a challenge. But I had to find that baby.
Making my way down a hallway, I entered a smaller room and found the wailing child. I stepped into the crowd and took the baby in my arms. She immediately stopped crying and nestled against me. I could hear her thinking “Ahhhh, someone understands.”
Then I woke up, smiling.
We parents are genetically engineered to do our damnedest to keep our kids happy. With our first one, we’re all clueless at the start. But after a few months on the job, we feel like we’re pretty good at turning our kid’s bad moods into better ones. We become masters of distraction (“Oh, look there’s a dog!”) and negotiation (“If you stop crying, I’ll read you a story.”) Whenever they’re unhappy, they instinctively come to us because they know that we’ll make things better, like magic. We love how they believe in us, but we know it’s not magic. We succeed in making them happy simply because we understand them so well and because they want to be comforted by us.
When they get to be tweens the dynamic starts to shift. They’re more aware of their dependence on us and they start resenting us for it.
In the mind of a young adolescent, our ability to make her smile gives us way too much power. She undermines that power by finding fault in everything we do. Especially our attempts at comforting when she’s down or upset. And because he resents our knowing him so well, he throws up smoke screens, attempting to make himself less knowable. “You just don’t understand, Mom!”
As parents, our imperative is to find and comfort the crying baby. But how do you deal when the baby is 11 or 16 and your attempts at helping are greeted with “Get outta my room and leave me alone!” ?
What do you do? What has worked in your family? What hasn’t worked?