There is not much worse, at least in my mind, than listening to a small child cry. Especially when there seems to be no reason for the child to be crying and the crying is so loud, and sounds so very, very distraught. It’s particularly bad when the cry is not so much a cry as a deep wailing that lets you know whatever is upsetting the child has been done by you and has somehow not just damaged him physically, but destroyed his fragile emotional well-being. It’s a cry that seems to say, “this moment right here is where you can trace the years of therapy I will one day need back to, you negligent monster.”
This is the sound echoing through my house this evening. It’s not merely a cry, it’s a soul shattering.
I don’t really know why my son is so distraught. It’s bedtime, sure, but he’s not a baby who melts down at bedtime. In fact, he usually loves his bath, squirms like crazy, laughing the entire time we try to put his pjs on, and sips his milk from his cup as we read Goodnight Moon while lullabies play in the background. When I put him in his crib, all I have to do is hand over his stuffed cow, which he greets with a smile before hugging it, rolling over and heading off to slumber land.
Tonight was no exception until I had the audacity to close the door behind me as I walked out of his room. That’s when the damn broke and the flood began. Actually, I’m not even sure what just happened had tears. It was far deeper than that. Tears are for making sure people cover you with kisses when you bump your head or fall down while chasing the cat. This sort of melancholy and hysteria is reserved for those moments when someone has wronged you beyond repair.
I went back in to make sure he was fine. I had horrible visions of him getting stuck in the railing of the crib (it is new and up to safety codes) or having pulled himself up enough and being stuck partially in and partially out of the crib. Neither was the case. He was sitting up leaning against the bars and wailing. I leaned down, picked him up and although his howling did not immediately cease, he did put his tiny head on my shoulder. I rocked him back and forth, rubbing his back and assuring him that I loved him. We swayed silently, his cried subsiding, turning to small sighs. His went limp in my arms. Silent. Sweet. Soothed.
Then I tried to put him back down. He gripped the rail ferociously. I gently pulled his hand away and before his head could hit the mattress, he was wailing again. I quickly backed out, knowing my only choice was to sit in the rocking chair until he fell asleep, which could be a really long time and get him into bad habits, or let him cry and kill a small piece of my soul in the process.
So here I sit, three rooms away, as silent as possible, hoping that he will settle down and fall into much needed repose.
Being a parent is hard.