Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.

Embracing Failure

March 2, 2009


There is nothing that illuminates one’s weakness and inability in quite the same manner as a screaming infant. All of our education, intelligence, socialization, spiritual centeredness, and compassion is quickly eroded as the screaming continues, then escalates. We try every trick, every position, every intervention possible, and we are powerless. On and on, the child wails away in utter indifference to our efforts. If we’re lucky, they finally stop, though we may never understand why. Like highway traffic that vexes and perplexes us, it is best not to ask why, but to just give thanks that we can get on with life again.

This latest child is not averse to protracted periods of hollering (to put it mildly). What’s worse –and to our chagrin– she is immune to the many nifty tricks that worked on the previous kids. We’ve prided ourselves on our repertoire of positions, patterns, sways, and songs that quiet the roar and bring the ultimate satisfaction: a baby that is completely limp in your arms, breathing deep and regular. But none of that stuff works here– once the burps and flatulence have been expelled and the diapers have been filled, Lucia wants nothing but nothingness. Just a firm, gentle hug with legs bent up and hands held at her chest. Nothing more, and nothing less. It might take an hour, and songs and patting and shushing only prolong it. We bring all of ourselves and our love and expertise to the table, yet she’d be much happier with a straitjacket.

When she needs such treatment in the middle of the night, it’s easy to despair. So instead of staring at the clock and slowly going insane, I choose to turn on the TV (thank the Good Lord, and bless the hands that made it). At 4am, there isn’t much on our commercial channels except infomercials, so I tend to linger on the Public Television offerings. Over the last week, I’ve been informed about coffee, murderous monkeys, quick Italian soups, plate-sized tarantula spiders, pre-Hispanic Mexicans, and a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember. It’s a small consolation.

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7 Responses to “Embracing Failure”

  1. Danielle says:

    As a mother of two previously colicky babies, let me know if you’d like some tried and tested tricks. I have lots.

  2. laci says:

    i would never go back to sleep if confronted at 4AM by a plate-sized tarantula. they’re so…hairy. *shudder*

  3. kate says:

    I burned through a lot of BBC miniseries-es and the like in the middle of the night with Lizzy. Let me know if you’d like to peruse the collection and borrow something!

  4. Liz says:

    I’ve come to believe there is no such thing as failure. There is just success and learning. You and Lucia are still learning how to live together. In the mean time, I suggest you keep a big stack of interesting DVDs to watch. When Elizabeth was little I’d only get to watch a little of the movie at a time, but it gave me something to look forward to in the middle of the night – kinda like my own personal cliff hanger. If you don’t see anything in Kate’s BBC miniseries collection, I have a ton of movies.

  5. Ken Tennyson says:

    I am curious regarding your straitjacket observation, I am assuming this occurred at the end of a 4am stint, and also that it was good for everyone there was not an infant size straitjacket handy! :)

  6. David R says:

    When my second daughter was born, I remember having some of the same reactions. I think Hannah’s behavior was her way of saying: “Hey! I ain’t my older sister! I am just me! Deal with me!” And I had to turn off the auto-pilot, pay attention to her, and learn all over again how to be a dad.

    It was glorious, and hard, learning.

  7. jason says:

    i think its time to buy yourself an xbox, circuit city is going out of business, i bet you could get a sweet deal

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