In the past week or so, River has lost his perpetual smile. He used to have very limited emotions – smiling, panting at approaching food and crying. Now he’s expanded his repertoire. He’s become more serious and seems to be trying to analyze how things work – such as staring at the fan going back and forth and back and forth. But what has concerned us is the negative nature of some of his emotions.
The first to appear was the huff, in which he purses his lips and hyperventilates through his nose. This is clearly a sign of frustration. He does it whenever he wants to express disapproval – of a food, an activity or not getting what he wants. This morning, for the first time, he rejected the breakfast choices with clear disdain, then crying – first the minestrone (which I could understand he’d be sick of), then yogurt. He accepted a piece of toasted wholegrain bread to gnaw on.
Mark hates the huff. “It’s as though he’s telling me I’m an inadequate parent,” he says. “We have to do something about this or we’re going to have a difficult, demanding child.”
I’m also concerned because I don’t know at what point to draw the line between meeting a child’s needs and making sure they learn that the entire world isn’t there to give them what they want. I feel like everyone gets angry and frustrated at times, babies probably more so because they aren’t able to communicate. His huffs do indicate what he wants/needs.
I had read that you can’t spoil a baby in the first few months. I had also read that one-on-one attention was good for babies during the first year. So we’ve basically been letting him run the show, have responded to his needs when they arise and have bathed him in individual attention since the day he was born. Luckily, he’s been pretty easy to please and undemanding, as long as he has a consistent supply of food.
Last night I spent a lot of time catching up on my What to Expect in the First Year. I’d left off somewhere around month six. It did say that babies are frustrated by not being able to communicate. It also said this is the time to teach a baby that other people have needs too. It gave advice on how to get a baby used to spending some time alone while you do other things.
I imagine that part of the crankiness is due to teething. River’s first tooth is on the way. It does seem that now might be a good time to bring someone else into the picture – to give him a chance to play with another child and to balance his needs with those of another child. We’re looking into the possibility of sharing our babysitter with a little girl of River’s age.
After a couple of months of feeling we pretty much had the hang of this, a new stage begins to challenge us afresh and send me back to the books. Now that I’m blogging, perhaps readers will also be able to offer advice.