The Darwin clan is on vacation with extended family, and the living is easy. The youngest member of the family, however, was not living easy the other day. We had eight hours of driving to get through and seven-month-old William did not find that living easy. He would scream until we stopped, be cheerful for as long as we remained at the rest stop, and the resume screaming as soon as he was put back in his car seat.
People who aren't around babies as much seem to get frantic during one of these hour long crying jags where you know there's nothing really wrong and that you'll never arrive at the destination if you pull over every fifteen minutes. There's a deep conviction that when babies cry there must be something Wrong that needs to be fixed.
But the fact is, babies don't only cry when they're sick or hurting. At seven months old the world can be a confusing place. Things happen for reasons that seem unclear. On some days, people strap you into a seat where you can't move much and keep you there for many hours before you magically arrive at a place that looks and smells somewhat different from the usual house, even if the people are the same.
While the rest of us, who have the luxury of understanding why we're in the car for long hours out of the day, may express our discomfort by becoming sullen or sarcastic or arguing, for the baby there is only one option: to cry. Just as you can't make others in the family snap out of their mood induced conversation tactics, there's not really anything you can do to stop the crying. Baby is cramped and tired of his seat and does't want to be confined in the car anymore. The car can't stop. And so, because crying is his only way of expressing his frustrations, he cries.
At some deep level, we're programmed not to sit easily when a baby is crying. Our instincts tell us to make it better and stop the sound, which in many cases would indicate that there was something wrong. But when you have to cover miles and it's the car seat that's causing anger, there are limited options other than to let baby express his entirely human feelings in the only way that he knows how.
Fortnightly Book, April 30
7 minutes ago