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It’s Hard to Listen to Your Baby Cry

My wife and I welcomed a new baby into our lives about five weeks ago. We’re taking a lot of our parenting cues from a book called On Becoming Babywise, though we’ve thumbed through some other books like The Happiest Baby on the Block and another book called The Well-Rested Child: What Your Child’s Sleep Problems Say About Your Poor Parenting Skills.

Okay, so there’s not actually a book with that last title, but there really is a book called The Happiest Baby on the Block. The title of that one alone probably made us more likely to trust the authors of Babywise.

I digress.

The point is that, when it comes to putting your little one down to sleep, the folks who wrote Babywise pretty much have the following, general philosophy: Let the baby cry for at least 15 to 20 minutes before trying to intervene in any way. The baby has to learn how to go to sleep on her own.

It actually works quite effectively about 75% of the time; however, it is never pleasant, even when it just takes three or four minutes for the baby to conk out.

I can tell you that I have sat in my daughter’s room, listening to her squalling, staring at the clock, waiting for the magical 15-minute mark when I can pick her up or give her a pacifier or just do something. Oftentimes, 13 minutes into the cry-fest, it’s like an angel shoots her with an invisible tranquilizer dart. Suddenly, she’s out, and I breathe a sigh of relief.

Though those 13 minutes may be hard, it’s better than the 45 minutes I used to spend unconsciously shushing her to sleep to the tune of “Jingle Bells.” And we’re encouraged by the fact that she’s really starting to develop healthy sleep patterns as a result. But, like I said, it’s hard.

Now there are other times when something is tangibly wrong, and I can actually resolve the issue pretty easily.

I cannot tell you how good it feels in those times when we can fix the problem: the times when we can feed her because she just needs to eat, when I can wrap an extra blanket around her because she’s cold, when I can simply change her dirty diaper, or when I can pat her on the back and just let her know I’m there.

Whether I can intervene or not, as a dad, I can never ignore her needs. I simply can’t feel apathetic about her cry, even if I’d rather be doing something else. Taking care of the problem that’s troubling my five-week-old daughter seems like – no, it is – the most important thing in the world, no matter what is going on.

And if I, as a loving, human father, can give even a crude glimpse into the heart of our heavenly Father, then I can tell you that He’s not as standoffish as we’ve literally painted Him to be – floating up there in Heaven with a flock of chubby angels gathered round like Christmas ornaments.

No, Jesus told us to call God our Dad. And as a loving father myself, all of a sudden Psalm 56:8 makes so much more sense when it says, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book.”

Of course, He has. Of course, He supernaturally takes us up in His arms and pats us on the back to calm us down (John 14:6). Of course, He sings songs to sooth us (Zephaniah 3:17). Of course, He agonizes when we think we need Him to come in and intervene, but it’s best for Him to stay put, watching us, praying for us (Hebrews 12:6, Romans 8:34).

The further I get in this walk as a dad, the more I look at God and feel a sense of awe and even a sense of sadness at the burdens He bears on behalf of so many millions of His children who need His infinite attention, love, and care.

Jesus could have just told us to say “King” or “Lord” or “Master” when we pray, but He didn’t. He told us to call God our Dad.

That’s starting to mean a lot more to me these days.

4 Comments
  1. Our concept of how God answers our pleas for help is limited by our finite perspective. Nevertheless, He has promised that He will respond to us. "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." (John 14:18) I take great comfort in Christ's explanation of our Heavenly Father's wisdom for helping us (Matthew 7:8-11). He will not give us a stone if we ask for bread. He is a giver of good gifts and knows what we most need for our own progression.

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    February 10, 2010
  2. Here's what I love about Joshua. He puts his faith into practice. You can tell, through his blog posts and in conversation, that every day for him is an active project in becoming a better person and Christian. He is not a sleepwalker.As he knows, I don't share his faith, or any faith. But I have tremendous respect for his devotion and open-hearted yearning for a higher plane and a goodness that overwhelms mortal, human weakness.Whatever our differences, Joshua is a friend of decency, healing, and understanding, and so he is a friend of mine.

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    February 21, 2010
  3. when a baby cries , it just means they are growing.

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    March 23, 2010
  4. Joshua, in all the years that I have know you, I can say that whatever you do, you do it to the best of your ability. I have always admired that you are willing to do the hard work to get the best result.Oh, another good book to add to the mix is "The Baby Whisperer". Most of all, find what works for you, be consistent and shower you baby girl with tons of love. Dudley

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    April 11, 2010

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