Monday, February 25, 2013

On Comparing Children

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I don't think an infant is ever really "easy." They are easy in comparison to other infants, perhaps. However, I would argue that infants are inherently difficult creatures. Now, this may be because of the lack of communication or perhaps it is because of their feral tendencies, I'm not sure, maybe both. There is no perfect guide to caring for a baby, no one key fits all. They are human and because of this very fact, they are unique in every way.

Sofia was an easy baby. She only cried when she really needed something, she napped well and she slept a solid five hours on her third night home. Now, I often wonder if my memory of those early months is distorted. I had no precedent; therefore, perhaps I thought she was easy because I didn't know any better. Perhaps I find Knox more temperamental because I am used to dealing with Sofia who is (now) consistent and communicates well. She wasn't always this way, but I must have forgotten.

Now, my kids aren't what I would really consider "difficult," they're just kids. So again, the definition of a difficult infant or child is dependent on perception. An extended cousin and I had a conversation over the weekend in which she explained the difficulty she had when her daughter was an infant -- her daughter would scream and howl for ten months straight. If she wasn't eating or sleeping, she was crying. Now that is difficult and that momma deserves a medal! She said at ten months it was like the flip of a coin and her daughter has been the easiest child ever since. I wonder if she sees her daughter as easy because of those rough early months?

I think an infant's difficulty factor is directly related to communication, or lack thereof. The fact is, all they can do is cry and it is up to us to decipher the tone and flux of their cries, to connect emotions and meanings to the different variations in their pitch. A crazy man's game, but something all parents have to do. So for instance, my son has a hard time sleeping all the way through his nap time, he always wakes at the 45 minute mark. In Babywise philosophy, we call this the 45 minute intruder. It is the transition point between sleep cycles and it is very common for an infant to wake at this point, if they do not go back to sleep they do not get their second cycle (which is the necessary deep sleep cycle) and then Momma your in for it! Knox cannot tell me what is waking him or what is making it hard for him to go back to sleep. It could be a million things: noise, light, discomfort, hunger, etc. It is up to me to troubleshoot my way through the list until I've found the answer. Now I'm pretty sure his cry is frustration and I'm pretty sure the problem involves a shoebox condo and a toddler whom I shall not name, but that is just a hypothesis that I am currently testing.

Case in point - Sofia never had to sleep through a pint sized, diapered fire alarm. Therefore how can I compare them? How can I say one is easier or more difficult than the other? One sleeps better than the other? Knox is dealing with factors Sofia couldn't even have dreamed of. The fact is, I am adding additional criteria to my now extensive résumé - referee, hostage negotiator and doubly experienced translator of lost and/or unknown languages.

All this to say, children cannot be compared. There are too many variables, even within the same family -- "easy" and "difficult" are all relative. Infants are infants, inherently challenging. The perception of difficulty is all dependent on the attitude we as parents bring forth in tackling said difficulties. So we push forward through infancy, cherishing each moment, savoring the sweet toothless smell of their breath and looking forward to the 6 month mark when we end our trek through infancy and begin our light jog toward toddlerhood.

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