After a conversation with a friend, I had an a-ha moment and discovered the answer to a recent frustration. We were talking about interpreting a baby’s behavior and addressing the underlying need rather than focusing solely on stopping the behavior. This has always been my goal with Peter, especially with crying.
When Peter was a newborn (and seemed to be nursing 12 or more hours out of every 24) I read a lot. One of my favorites was Dr. Sears’ Attachment Parenting book and one tidbit that stuck with me is that crying is the main way babies communicate. When a baby cries, they are trying to communicate a need the only way they know how.
As time goes on, they learn other methods of making their needs known. Because we responded to his crying from the beginning, Peter rarely cries now. Crying now means he’s overtired or hurt and fussing means he’s getting frustrated that I’m not “getting it.” When this happens, I know I need to take a step back and try to figure out what I’m missing.
Recently no matter how content or engaged Peter was, as soon as I started trying to wash dishes he would scoot over, pull himself up on my pants and start fussing. I would end up washing only one or two things and then stop to try and figure out what he needed.
I was guessing wrong every time.
And the pile of dishes was growing every day.
I finally realized he wanted to help! I used to often put his highchair next to the sink while I did dishes so he could watch. Once he was mobile he didn’t want to be confined to the highchair anymore, but babies are always changing.
Now that he’s tall enough to see and reach into the sink from the highchair he didn’t mind being stuck. I gave him a long spoon to splash and stir the water with and he had a blast.
And I did all these dishes (plus a few more that I dried and put away) before he was ready to be released from the highchair.