When you respond to your crying baby, your crying baby learns that:
- It works to use his words (yes, for now, those are his words),
- His needs are valid (worth speaking up about),
- You can be trusted, and
- You are source of comfort in the midst of overwhelm.
Be careful with this process, parents. You would not want baby to get the wrong impression. If you don’t pick him up because you think that a young baby can be spoiled, you’re mistaken. Spoiling and manipulation require a level of brain development and multitasking that your new baby simply does not possess. Yet.
In the process of attachment, life’s first assignment, the only good outcome is for baby to understand that you are capable of keeping up your end of this bargain he finds himself in.
Simply put: if he has a problem (hunger, pain, boredom, fatigue, an itchy tag in his onesie), you have a solution. Like a pendulous, generous breast, or a soothing, rocking motion, or a smiling game, or safety scissors to kill the itchy onesie tag. If your baby had bigger words, he might quote James Taylor: “you supply the satisfy, I’ll supply the need.”
Think about the future of this infancy and this attachment process: What would you want your child to believe, understand, know about you when he becomes a teenager? A teenager at a party where underage drinking is happening. A teenager who finds himself in need of a reliable ride home.
In the future, you would want your child to:
- Use his words to call you and say, “Mom, can you come get me? Uh … park down the street, though.”
- Value his safety almost as much as you do (that worth-speaking-up-about thing),
- Trust that you will not add to the stress of the difficult correct choice he’s in the midst of by showing up yelling, braless, and in your plaid jammies. Well, in my opinion, it’s a valid choice to show up braless and in your plaid jammies….. just remember the “park down the street” piece of the negotiation.
- And yes, he needs you to comfort him on the way home, mostly by NOT teachable-ing this moment.
Simply put, you want your lifelong bond with him to supersede his temporary, developmentally-driven bond with his peers. The foundation for what he believes about himself, you, and this world begins now. So does the two-way loyalty that will someday insulate against peer pressure.
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