Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Crying Game


The Crying Game: Magda Gerber and Dr. Sears Face Off

Welcome to the philosophical paradox of crying babies. Beyond the obvious reparable (or irreparable) reasons, nobody knows why babies cry, and nobody can keep them from crying from time to time, yet all the experts agree that this no-apparent-reason crying is a meaningful, authentic form of communication that must be honored, interpreted and responded to by the parent. Experts further agree that if you follow the advice of the wrong expert, you will do irreparable damage to your future relationship with your child, and to your child's self-esteem as she grows up.

In other words: everyone knows you can't win, but nobody can call off the game, and just to keep it interesting--loser gets a kid who's scarred for life. Well, I protest! I will sit down and extemporize while my fussy baby yells herself purple in my helpless, sagging arms. I will do this because nothing I do will do any damn good anyhow. I might even wear my iPod while I type!

For the benefit of grannies, childless people, and other readers who are less baby-obsessed than I am, I will explain who these people are. If you have a young infant you probably already know, so skip the next bit and go attend your screaming baby. If you're pregnant, go take a nap and when you wake up, get your doc to write you up a scrip for some Librium. Trust me. It's for later.

In the white corner, wearing yellow trunks: Magda Gerber, founder of Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE), disciple of Dr. Emmi Pickler, who did a lot of research with some very nice Hungarian orphans, and author of Your Self-Confident Baby, which is required reading for Montessori infant-types. Magda would like for you to respect your child's individual competence as separate from you. She would have you respect her "need to cry" by letting it be "ok" for her to cry sometimes. She cautions against rocking, swinging, bouncing, walking the floor, cars and washing machines, and other physical stimulation methods of baby soothing, as they intrude on the baby's natural ability to work through its newfound emotions. She would have you go to the baby's bed, talk to the baby, maybe lay a hand on the baby's tummy, and "be present" while the baby screams its head off.

In the red corner, wearing blue trunks: Dr. Sears (actually, now there are three--Dad and two sons), Attachment Parenting (AP) guru. Check out the whole AP philosophy at www.askdrsears.com. Dr. Sears would probably like to eat Magda Gerber alive. He cautions against "letting your baby cry-it-out" as this is against almost every parent's natural instinct toward her child, and will damage the trust bond between parent and child, cause easy babies to become apathetic (i.e. quiet), and difficult babies to become totally unglued (i.e. disturbingly noisy). He advocates bouncing, swinging, "baby dancing", walking the floor, pacifiers, and pretty much anything you have to do to soothe (i.e. shut up) the baby, and he advocates doing this for as long as it takes. No "crying it out" ever. He does make a certain allowance for colic, and at some point in the future, moving from being a "yes mom" to a "yes-and-no mom", though he does not specify when or exactly what the hell that means.

And so I'm...Stuck in the middle with you.

Let's all digest while I settle in for the 2:30am feeding. Anyone have upfront opinions before the main event?

5 comments:

Auntie Shoogs said...

Are you Ferberizing her?

heheh.

testdriver said...

Totally different head. Totally.

Actually, if I ever get around to writing it up, Magda Gerber isn't totally against Ferber (who is not quite as big a quack as the dad in Meet the Fockers--but almost). The crying debate is a pretty fun, if useless way to waste your time and mental energy, since the kid is going to cry no matter what you do...

Auntie Shoogs said...

Actually, I am told from mothers on my board who actually do research this stuff that you really shouldn't let babies "cry it out" if they are less than 6 months. I read a debate on it just the other day, but being as I am not yet at the phase where stuff like that starts sticking in my head, I don't remember much of it.

testdriver said...

Yes, that seems to be the agreed-upon age at which people start expecting that a kid should be able to sleep through the night. Many can be expected to do it at 3 months. Nuvy is nowhere near old enough to be sleeping for more than four or so hours at a stretch, so that debate is still theoretical for us, which is why I leave Ferber out of my Gerber/Sears discussion just now. Newborn fussiness and the colic continuum are, to me, another kind of coping issue for parents. At our house, we co-sleep so she can eat the minute she stirs at night,without waking up the whole house, and herself. What I mean is the afternoon/evening mystery-crying, after you've done everything you know how to do.

Auntie Shoogs said...

Oh yeas, I remember that crying when she was here. Hmmm...