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Some lessons I learn right away; others I need to learn over and over each day. Being present with my daughter is, unfortunately, one of the latter.

Today was a whiny day. For her, for me. I whined in the middle of the night when she woke up as usual and gave her “I’m hungry, feed me” cry. I whined when she asked to be picked up. I whined when she didn’t respond to any of my “please stop whining, maybe this is what you need” offers. And on and on.

There is something magical about her whine, if magical means “bizarrely effective in eliciting the desired, out-of-proportion reaction.” Her whine hits me between the ears and in my chest. When I hear it I instantly want to scream and I will do whatever will work to stop the whining. I assume that baby whines have evolutionary origins since they are perfectly pitched to rivet the attention of any adults nearby, particularly mothers, to the needs of this seemingly helpless infant. And I know that whines are not just random baby noise; they are telling me about a particular need my baby has, and offering me the opportunity to pay attention and meet that need. When I don’t respond, or respond appropriately, the whines escalate in frequency and volume and my attention increases exponentially while my inner peace, owing I assume to a lack of spiritual development, drops inversely.

And even though I noted ONLY YESTERDAY that she is signalling to me when she needs to go to the bathroom, I still missed the meaning of her whine consistently for most of the day. And though I told my mom only a few weeks ago that her whine often means she’s hungry for solids, I similarly misdiagnosed that variation on the whine all day. Peace leads to attention leads to understanding; no peace produces inattention and miscommunication.

The other challenge is that these processes are cyclic: I misdiagnose a whine, it escalates, I get more frustrated and less likely to figure out the next one and more likely to have an inappropriate, not loving reaction. It takes a conscious effort to get perspective, redirect, perhaps breathe (perhaps!) and calm down.

Learning? Breathe. Slow down. Look my baby in the eyes more. And when I need a break: take her for a walk, pick blueberries from the bush and feed them to her, take her to the library, just get out and move.

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3 responses »

  1. Just had to say I think you should cut yourself a LOT more slack. Whines are NOT always specific. Mine aren’t – often if I had the awareness I might be able to figure it out, but, I don’t always have the awareness and sometimes what stops the whine is not whats causing it (I may whine because I’m super tired, but, a Dove bar will stop the whining…). Same with kids. Also, she is almost out of this stage – pretty soon she’ll be able to tell you what she wants. In lieu of that, you might try making up and teaching her a couple of signs for the things that are most likely reasons for whining – like needing the bathroom and solid food (patting her hip and making a chewing motion with your hand?) If she can learn those she’ll do them instead of a general whine… We were SO glad when M learned the sign for “more” – it made our days WAY less whiny…

  2. That sounded I lot more bossy than I meant to be – I just don’t want you to be so hard on yourself. Perfect mothering doesn’t mean she never whines, it means she always knows her whines are heard (even if it takes a little while to decipher their exact meaning).

    • Thanks Mel – taken as intended, I hope! We are starting to try signing, when I remember, including eat, potty and more. And I do agree that to expect a child to always be happy is to set up an impossible standard, not to mention set the ground for poor life skills for the child – life is not always perfect! I guess my main frustration with myself is when she’s trying to communicate and I’m not listening. More about being present than prescient (wow, that was fun!). And as you say, cutting myself some slack as mothering is probably the hardest thing ever and I’m doing not badly.

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