You only get one shot at this. How do you do it without messing up?
Your baby has arrived and suddenly you are looking into the brand new eyes of a total stranger. You love this little being with all your heart and soul but you don’t know him or her at all.
This little alien creature looks up at you with worshipping adoration and your first thought is “Oh my God I hope I don’t screw this up.”
You are overly conscious of the fact that you get one chance to create a close and loving bond between you and this miracle, to do everything to give him his best chance at life.
But he is the one thing in your life that came with no instruction manual.
How do you avoid emotionally crippling the one you love most in the world?
1) Understand that they are NOT animals.
From the moment they are born these little dudes and dudettes are watching, figuring and acting.
Every little thing from making her tiny fingers curl around a bottle to keeping her little hands from hitting herself in the eye she must research, work out and practice.
No one is teaching her. She is teaching herself.
When my son was 2 weeks old, I had him in his bouncy chair. I watched as he twirled his little foot in a circle to get the chair to bounce gently back and forth.
I held his foot lightly to stop the chair from rocking and then let it go. He did it again. He knew what he was doing and had worked out how to do it.
According to his doctor, he was not supposed to be thinking and working things out at that age but observing my little man closely, I could see without doubt that he was.
His doctor was not looking at the little person in front of him when making this statement but at a category entitled “babies”.
Categories are for things, not people. Don’t make that mistake.
Watch your little person, you will see ample evidence of an active little mind working overtime.
2) Understand that the birth process is brutally painful and confusing for them.
Babies are thrust into the birth process with no advance warning.
You have had nine months and possibly more to fully prepare yourself, your wife, the house and everyone around you for the big day.
Your wife’s little passenger has not. He has been in a state of suspended animation that ends abruptly in a cold, bright delivery room with people yelling “PUSH!” And a strange man grabbing him as he slithers out.
Your baby’s head has been squeezed hard, the medical procedures are painful, all of this confusing panic is going off and he realizes that he doesn’t even speak the language or even what language is.
He is confused to the point that he is the total effect of everything that is happening to him and he is overwhelmed.
The process is such an ordeal that it takes him months to recover.
Be calm and quiet around your baby. Hold him, rock him, talk gently to him.
Any loud or angry words around him will upset him and make the adjustment difficult or even impossible.
3) Understand that your baby is receiving way too much sensation from his fresh little body and he has no idea what it all means.
The lights are way too bright for brand new eyes. The room is cold and he is wet and uncomfortable.
He has a fierce headache.
There are strange smells, people are talking and making noises. There is movement back and forth.
If you have trouble relating, think how you might feel if you woke up wet and naked in a foreign country and the people around you suddenly started running and yelling.
This is the state of a new born baby.
Your understanding, compassion and help are the same as if a kindly stranger took your arm, covered you to keep you warm and led you to a safe place.
4) Understand that they depend on you utterly and your upsets with them are perceived as a serious threat to their survival.
Your baby knows only too well that he cannot make it out in the world alone. He has no wherewithal to survive and would not know how to if he did.
Your slight frown can make him anxious. He knows that if he displeases you enough, you may someday decide that you don’t want him and leave him.
Although you know you never would. He still doesn’t know you.
He also does not know that some day he will grow up and be independent. He may think he will be little and totally dependent forever.
From this viewpoint, your slight disappointment can translate to abandonment to him.
5) Understand that they don’t know the laws of the physical universe.
Babies are completely new to this planet. They don’t understand things like gravity.
Yesterday he dropped an apple or saw you drop one and it fell to the ground. So how come today when he let the balloon string slide from his grasp, the ballon fell up?
He is upset. He has lost one of the very few possessions he feels was really his because the universe played a nasty trick on him.
If he lets his balloon go or falls or runs into a wall, don’t ridicule, laugh or yell. Just understand that he didn’t know what was going to happen and he has now learned the bitter way how it works.
Help him recover from his upset and just get him a new freaking balloon.
6) Understand that their bodies are changing so fast that they can’t keep up.
Have you seen how fast babies grow? If you want to see an example, go to the store and look at the clothes for babies at three months, six months and nine months. The size difference is huge.
Meanwhile your baby as he grows is trying to figure out all the zillion things his little body can do and how to do them.
As he grows, he tries to stand.
And let’s face it, baby bodies are not designed with any faintest idea of function in mind.
Their heads are HUGE. They try to stand up and their heads pull them down fast and hard.
Can you imagine trying to walk with a 20 pound pumpkin on your head?
When you look at all of the tiny adjustments he has to make with his little body to make it crawl, make it stand, and make it walk, you have to admit that it is mastery in physics.
It is the same process that produces a classical ballet dancer or an olympic gymnast except that every day his body is different so the adjustments start all over again.
Just because we all do it at some point does not take away from the fact that learning to use a growing body is a feat of genius and persistence.
If he gets cranky, give him a break. He might have sore muscles or be extremely tired because he has been working all day on strengthening and perfecting the use of his growing body.
If he stumbles he needs your understanding care and strong hands there at the ready saying “Here ya go buddy” and stabilizing him.
Anyone who has been grabbed by a kind stranger before they hit the ground knows how important that can be.
7) Understand that they are super frustrated that they cannot communicate effectively.
Communication is the most important thing we have in life. People in seclusion wither and die. Your child knows he cannot communicate and it is frustrating.
When I was 17 my family moved to Brussels for a year. I went to an all girl’s school and was taught in French which I did not know. I cried all the time. I had never felt so lonely.
My school mates tried to help me but it wasn’t until I learned French that I was no longer depressed.
Your baby is no different. She has so many questions and observations that she cannot tell you and it is upsetting to her because you are the one she most wants to communicate with.
She wants to ask you questions, tell you about the bird she sees, get you to look at the sky. Her world is just beginning and opening up in all its wonders and she has no one to share it with.
Watch your little person and try to tune in to what she is trying to tell you. Even if you don’t fully understand, you can at least acknowledge that she has spoken so she knows that she is not invisible and that she is worth an acknowledgement.
8) Understand that they are way smarter and more perceptive than you think.
Babies understand by perceiving. In a sense they tune in to our emotional vibrations. Have you noticed that when you are upset, even if you don’t show it, he is tense and unhappy?
Babies are like little perception sponges. They absorb your moods and reflect them.
Your unhappiness, anxiety and worry affects him. If you can, put your troubles aside when you are near him. Focus on the two of you. It will make you both a lot happier.
9) Understand that ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS they are doing their best to please you.
Despite the difficult birth process. Despite the inability to communicate, there is one thing that your baby knows and that is that he loves you unconditionally.
You are his world. Every effort he makes is made to try and please you.
Make your baby feel that he has succeeded by being pleased with him. Validate his attempts to help you even if his help is more work for you.
As he gets better he will gain skill and his help will be more effective but everyone has a learning curve. Let him have his. He will work it out.
10) Love them for who they are
Babies are individuals. They are not categories, personality types or God forbid “Rugrats”.
Some of the labels applied to children are frankly abusive.
The idea that they are all one group of mindless animals that have to be forced into good behavior is outdated and leads to misunderstanding.
These categories and labels have been invented by “scientists” who cannot see the bright facts in front of their faces and can never understand any human being much less a baby.
A baby is basically a tiny alien creature who has arrived on earth through a weird and upsetting process. He is thrust into this life with people he doesn’t know, places he has never been, and rules and a culture he has never experienced.
Each one has his or her own ideas, viewpoints and goals. Understand this and let them move in their direction with care and guidance from you.
Helping your little man or lady grow into the fine person they want to be is all in the understanding and the approach.
You love each other, and you both have the same goal of them growing up to be a fine person.
The relief they feel in knowing that they are understood is the difference between living in a calm and secure environment and a living in a hostile one.
Imagine how you felt when you left a bitter and hostile work environment and found a secure one with a great boss.
Their relief is the same.
And armed with this knowledge you can make both of your lives easy and happy and build a bond that can never broken
Write me with any thoughts. I would love to hear them.