Sometimes you have to let the baby cry

A few people close to me have had newborns recently. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law had their first baby, my beautiful niece Josephine on Valentine's Day this past February. My high school best friend/college roommate and her husband had a sweet second baby boy in June. As a mother of two tween girls, it's been a minute that I have been in that newborn phase of parenthood.

Holding their babies, many forgotten skills come rushing back. I was never great at manuevering the spit rag under those little jello necks but I am pretty adept at getting a burp out. I remembered packing to leave the house with ev.ry.thing in a bag plus a stroller and a carseat and change of clothes...and inevitably not having the one thing you actually ended up needing. When I changed a diaper, it reminded me of cutting off a onesie like I was a trauma nurse when there was a diaper blow out. My living room was filled with a different structure for every 2 month phase- the swing, the bouncer, the exosaucer, the jumper, the walker...not to mention toys with 14 million pieces strewn across the carpet.

All of that makes you wonder how you did it. My girls are 21 months apart. The baby was born July 4, I went back to coaching August 1 and teaching later that month.

My view in 2012.
Blue's Clues on TV protected by ottoman, toys everywhere

While driving, I was thinking about that crazy time in our lives and how we managed and the phrase came to me that, "sometimes you have to let the baby cry." And wow. That hits different as a parent of tweens.

When I was on maternity leave with my first-born, home alone, and I had to take a shower (seriously, you just lose track of days on maternity leave), I remember trying to figure out what to do with the baby. I strapped her in the swing, jumped in for the quickest shower possible and thought, "I guess I will just have to let her cry."

When the kids were toddlers and they wanted toast and I cut it in triangles and put it on the blue plate and they have a complete meltdown because they wanted squares on the pink plate with no crust and I tried to explain that 1) all the shapes taste the same and 2) making bread into toast is all crust... I was NOT going to make new "crustless" squares because WHAT IS THIS THE FOUR SEASONS???? Sorry kids, I am just going to have to let you cry. 

But then, something happens. They started growing up and less and less I let them cry. I fix it for them too often. Do you feel this too?

**DISCLAIMER** I*get*it. We love our kids. We want them to be happy and smart but not nerdy and attractive but sweet and witty but respectful and athletic and popular but not the "mean girl" and street smart without any real world experience. While I do subscribe to tough love a lot of the time,  I will be the first to say my kids have no wants let alone needs. They are spoiled by my time and my resources for sure. This is less of a lecture and more of a lamentation. This is not based on some OTHER parent I specifically interacted with. This is me, stepping back to look at parenting, after being reminded of a very crazy time in my life when I let the baby cry because it was essential to my sanity. It feels like a good throw back lesson I need to remember, and maybe you do too? Ok, onward.

Letting the baby cry when you had to take a shower wasn't mean. It was essential. 

Letting the toddler cry when....well, mostly anytime a toddler cries, isn't mean. It was a lesson and who are you kidding, those toddlers cry no matter what.

But then... they learn to not only reason but have the persistence to wear you down. And you're older and have had these kids for like a decade and you're very tired of fighting with them. It's definitely easier just to give in to more screen time or ignore that you told them to clean their room 42345 times. Also, you're interacting with their friends' families and if you cancel that play date because they are being a jerk, you worry you're putting that other mom out, so you still let your jerk kid go on that play date and you enjoy some delicious alone time too. (True story: Rotten parenting, excellent self-care. I'm torn in my decision-making sometimes.)

Working with 300+ tweens and teens each year, I see that it is such a fine line of giving them freedom to fail and helping them navigate becoming a fully-functioning adult (because that's the goal, right?). In junior high, kids have to learn to advocate for themselves, ask questions, juggle multiple classrooms with different expectations--it's the first time they are dipping their toes into "the real world." High school students should reasonably be able to "take care of their business" by emailing teachers and keeping their practice schedules straight, maybe even having a part-time job to supplement their Chipotle and Chick-fil-A budget. There are too many lawnmower parents-- those that "micromanage, interfer, rearrange to avoid failure, disappointment, discomfort, and adversary" (That's a real thing, google it)-- and that is a real problem to the growth of how a student, or young adult, takes responsibility for themselves.

Let's face it- the real world is full of disappointment and things that are unfair and unexplainable. We should look to help our kids navigate those things instead of create a life of no problems at all. Letting our mostly grown kids "cry"...maybe not actual tears, but to experience a little disappointment or discomfort isn't mean. It's essential to their growth as a perfectly-formed human, a real-life lesson in how bad real-life sometimes stinks. We are right there to support them and help them through to the other side, not plow through the pain ahead of them so they are so fresh when they leave us, they hardly know how to persist in the face of adversity.

My friends and family who have passed the newborn stage, you know the secret to getting through those days. "This too shall pass." The sleepless nights, the teething, the diapers. It's all over in what now feels like the blink of an eye but felt like eternity when we were in the thick of it. Let the baby cry. He or she will be ok. You'll pick up that gooey newborn and comfort them, and let them know that even if they are crying, you'll be there to help. Let the toddler cry. They'll still climb on your lap to read The Book With No Pictures (FAVORITE) for the 856th time, wipe their dirty sticky hands on the couch, and say "I love you" and you would run through a wall to make some toast in whatever shape they want.

Let's let our tweens and teens cry. They will be more equipped to handle the real world when we give them our shoulder to cry on and hand over the tools they need to fix it themselves. We're making strong leaders. We're making hard workers. We're making fully functioning adults. We can totally do this. How will we do it?

Sometimes you have to let the baby cry.


Thank you to my dear friends and family with their newborns who led me to this thought after I snuggled their babies and gladly handed them back. 


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