Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Baby Whisperer

With baby still leading the day, it’s inevitable that these Blogs are Zadie-centered. I had a proud-Grandpa day yesterday, managing to calm Zadie when she was threatening a prolonged period of Waah! and able to give my daughter the gift of time and relief. It was a happy feeling, but one that won’t be possible next week when I return to the other side of the country with at least three months until the next visit.

I do think that the enormous flaw of modern life is the isolation we feel and the increased weight on our small shoulders. We love to parrot the popular soundbyte of “the whole village to raise the child,” but are far from organizing our lives around that possibility. The few friends I have from Ghana have confirmed that the sense of family is quite larger there than our nuclear version, that it’s often hard to distinguish Uncle from Father and that indeed, everyone, including older siblings and cousins and neighbors, pitches in to be with baby. And really, one needn't go to Ghana to feel that dynamic of big families who stay rooted in one spot. Indeed, for most of our human history, children were communally raised. But now with increased mobility, small families in closed houses, parents and their adult children living far apart, we need to compensate and create some new kinds of villages. Healthier and happier for all to spread out the care and work and pleasure of child-raising. 

But back to the situation at hand—a cranky baby that needs attention. A few pointers for fellow grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. to consider when calming baby. If you’re rolling your eyes here, I probably deserve it. One or two lucky sessions hardly qualifies me for the title of “Baby Whisperer,” but hey! for the moment, they worked. Next time baby is fussy and she or he has been recently fed, consider the following. Not only might they help calm baby, but help you feel better too!

• Buddhist chants in a front snuggly with her head against your chest. The vibrations soothe both baby and you. If you don’t know the chants, fake it. Good in a dark room.

• Dance. CD’s okay, but better if you’re singing.

• Get outside. Fresh air is good for all. Front snuggly still recommended over stroller. Talk to baby about what you see around you. Or sing.

• Work with baby wrapped in front or back (I’m typing this with her in the snuggly!). Rhythmic work (chopping vegetables, folding laundry, washing dishes) particularly good, especially if you’re talking or singing while you do it. (Well, like everything else in my life, it all circles back to Play, Sing and Dance. And with whole generations untrained, what kind of parents and grandparents will they be?)

• If all else fails, feed baby.

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