HELLO and welcome to your new favorite blog! Raising Helmicks is devoted to the idea that children are incredible, growing up is really hard, and parenting well is even harder. You can read a little about me here. As I chronicle my journey as a parent, I’ll be writing about child development and my experiences in designing a beautiful life for my family and making a better world for babies.
But first, a story.
Above is a pretty nice picture of my family, plus Yoda. However, please notice Rory’s tightly clenched fist, darkly furrowed brows, and vice-like chomp on his fingers. As of late, my happy, sunny baby has become a little rain cloud.
Not long ago, we had a very tough night. Rory used to sleep soundly, but he spent this one blaring like a fire alarm. Seriously, he would let out a wail of misery and then fall silent, appearing to be peacefully asleep, only to let out another loud one in a few seconds. I spent almost the entire night in a kind of horrible half-sleep, never able to fully wake up or rest.
Kyle was fortunately able to hibernate through most of the drama and got up early to go make the doughnuts. Rory had also managed to get enough shut-eye to stay wide awake through the morning. I felt like hell.
But the baby was not finished. His morning was a mixture of insistent fussing and growling at me for hours while I desperately cycled through soothing ideas. Nursing? Playing? Teething? Rocking? Nursing while snuggled with me in bed? Nursing on the OTHER side while snuggled with me in bed? Switching arrangements every ten seconds, trying to find one that would get him to calm down and fall asleep? It reminded me of that month I did vinyasa yoga because we went through the same positions over and over, hoping for quick results. And I was also wearing yoga pants.
Some intense prayers for patience later, I tucked a lightly snoozing Rory into his snug rocking bassinet and stumbled out to the living room. “This is the most worn out and frustrated I’ve ever been as a parent,” I texted Kyle (all the more experienced parents are laughing at my pain, I know).
Kyle was having a slow morning at work, so after expressing sympathy and solidarity, he did some research and found this article. Apparently, age 19 weeks is acknowledged to be pretty rough, because it tends to correspond with an intense developmental leap. Babies at this age are acquiring the abilities to sit upright and perform complicated tasks such as switching toys from one hand to the other. The rapid brain changes happening can cause babies to be fussy and unfocused while feeding, sleep restlessly, and want to eat more at night than during the day. “Go figures,” Kyle noted, sending me the link.
As I read, my mood transformed. It was one of those things where you feel like a random article or story has been written specifically about you (or, in this case, your 19-week-old miracle). They probably have a specific word for that in some endlessly sophisticated Nordic language.
“Clinginess, crankiness, and crying, those are like his middle names right now,” I said, in whatever is the texting equivalent of a wail. “I wanna cry. This is SO him.”
It was enough to pull me out of feeling sorry for myself and picture what it was like for poor Rory to be going through the most traumatic experience of his short life. I mean, I could still feel my soul wither a little when he awoke and roared for me from the bedroom (eyes screwed shut, cantankerous, and inconsolable), but it gave me new resolve to face this tough milestone. My job was to soothe him as he worked through the accelerated development of his brain.
It’s not fun to feel stuck rocking and feeding an unhappy baby for hours on end, but it does help to pretend that it’s the plan.
The more I study about children, the more I realize that being a baby is probably the hardest thing a person ever does.
We have so much we want these tiny humans to learn and do as they grow, but we also have the tragedy of being human ourselves. A baby’s world is shaped by their parents, family members, teachers, home environments, communities, and cultures. Each one of these is imperfect, hurting, or dysfunctional in some way. Each one leaves its mark while their little brains are still learning how to even BE brains.
I have loved seeing how my degree in human development informs and enlightens my experiences in teaching children. My education has been so valuable to me in providing tools to help children learn to succeed. I know I’ll use those skills (along with a healthy dose of Google) over and over again as I learn to parent.
That’s why I’m adding my voice to the blogosphere; to spread information, spark discussion, support parents, and make the world a better place for babies.