Right on schedule, Z has entered another big wonder week. Although, this “week” lasts about a month. He’s definitely experiencing the three C’s of a big developmental leap: he’s crying, clingy, and cranky. Looks like I became a stay-at-home dad just in time!
This leap lets him understand the world of relationships. Mostly, this means spatial relationships. His little baby brain is now noticing how things can be near or far, and how objects can be positioned relative to each other. I can hear him being fussy now, probably because I am too far away for his comfort.
Z is a very different baby already since the last time I wrote about Wonder Weeks. He’s not really crawling yet, but he’s clearly working on it. He can roll and twist and kick himself enough that we can’t just put him down and go do something for a minute. Like a killer from those old slasher movies, while you’re watching him it seems like he’s barely moving but he can get all over the damn place once your back is turned. He’s like a tiny Michael Meyers* but instead of wanting to kill Jamie Lee Curtis he keeps trying to toss himself over the edge of the bed.
He’s able to grip and grab things now. He likes to shake a rattle or hold a ball. Most of the time, though, he uses this skill to pull the pacifier out of his mouth and then gets upset.
These and other skills and interests have developed over the past month; Z’s earlier wonder weeks have borne fruit!
Unfortunately, I think the little guy is also teething on top of everything else. He’s drooling more than a hungry St. Bernard. He’s been getting congested — which could be due to teething or just all the pollen in the air — which can make it hard for him to sleep at night, even when he’s a super-tired mess. And for a little while today it seemed like he was wanting or needing to nurse more frequently than his normal two-hour intervals, so he could be hitting a physical growth spurt, to boot.
We’ve got more growing pains around here than Nick at Night!
Fortunately, this is not our first rodeo (it’s our third rodeo, if you’re counting). Being an experienced parent doesn’t give you any secret way to soothe a baby going through this stuff. The process of transforming from a cute-but-immobile lump to a little person who can toddle around and makes talky noises and has teeth is one that involves periods of discomfort, no two ways about it. Having done this before, I know that this is normal and nothing is wrong with Z. That helps some.
What helps a lot more is to develop ways to help calm yourself down when your little one is going through one of these phases. Hearing a baby cry and scream is intensely distressing. In fact, it’s hard-wired into human beings for that sound to be the most stressful thing you can hear. Prolonged exposure to it, especially when you’re failing to soothe the baby and get that noise to stop, will make you upset, angry, irritable, burned-out, or depressed. To get through that, you’ve got to increase your distress tolerance.
What’s distress tolerance, you ask? Why, that’s just a fancy term for the things you think about or tell yourself to help calm down. The things you promise yourself you will do as soon as this baby is sleeping, whether that’s have a glass of wine, take a bubble bath, or watch an episode of “The Walking Dead.” (Wait — don’t they have a baby on that show? Maybe that wouldn’t be very calming, after all. Perhaps it would be better to watch a show that doesn’t routinely involve children being in danger. I hear “Game of Thrones” is good.) People are able to soothe themselves in upsetting situations (you know, like having a screaming baby an inch or so from your ear for an hour or two) are less likely act irrationally, snap at their spouses and children, or have blood shoot from their eyeballs.
So when your bundle of joy becomes a shrieking ball of tears just remember: this, too, shall pass. That tooth will come in. This wonder week won’t last forever. In the meantime, take care of yourself.
*The one from the Halloween movies, not the one who ruined The Cat in the Hat.