Every morning here, it’s the same story.
“Hi, mama! Wake up, mama!” Giggling, happy babies race down the stairs.
By the time they get to their room, though, the tide has turned. Somehow, in between my getting up and getting everyone’s breakfast ready, the tears switch on – the whining, the crying, the repetitions of half-words half-wails that I just cannot understand. And nothing will pacify, nothing will soothe. I simply want the happy babies I had less than 15 minutes ago to frolic and play while I heat the milk. Is that too much to ask?
I know that all I can do is desperately hang on and wait for this phase to end. They understand me now. They know I’m willing to get them what they want (within reason), and, yet, they still find reason to cry at any given moment. Any action has a 50 percent chance of instigating crocodile tears.
The most frustrating tantrums of the bunch happen when I have just given them what they were asking for. It’s mind-boggling. Here is a two year old, railing on and on about chocolate milk, and when I hand her the sippy of milk, she throws it on the ground and cries some more. I just want to ask her, what do you want? What do you want?
The problem is they are starting to face what we all have faced and will face again throughout our adult lives. They don’t know what they want. At two years old, they only know that they are unhappy. Like any person would, they look to things that have provided them with happiness in the past to fill the void. Chocolate milk, for instance. The baby thinks, “Chocolate milk! That’s it! I love chocolate milk. I must be unhappy due to my unjust lack of chocolate milk! I bet if I get some chocolate milk, I will no longer feel sad!”
But when they get the chocolate milk, they are still sad. This compounds the outrage. Now, not only are they sad, but their trusted friend, chocolate milk, has betrayed them. It sits idly by in a puddle on the floor while these angsty feelings continue to simmer within them. It does nothing to help them out of their discontentment.
“I know!” they think. “A lollipop. Surely a lollipop will help!”
But it doesn’t help. Nor does the lovey, or the video, or the Raffi song, or the balloon. All of their friends are betraying them, and their mother worst of all because she is allowing this unhappiness to go on.
At this point, I must sadly admit, that the babies usually end up so frazzled that the hug they rejected the first time around eventually does comfort them. They reach the point where nothing but physical touch can reassure them that whatever it is that they wanted is unimportant.
I’m riding out the waves of this now, hoping that this phase will soon pass. I try to remember that just because the twins can now communicate doesn’t mean they understand emotional action.
Even I, at 28, don’t understand it.
Sometimes, your baby will want to be happy and will look for things to make him happy. When those things fail, he will be understandably even more upset than he was before. But if we can take a step back from the fire, we will realize that what is happening is glorious. Our babies are trying to figure out the world on their own terms. They may fail at two, or three, or 15, or 28, but maybe someday they’ll figure it out. At the very least, they’ll find their own peace – a peace which right now, as their parents, we must give to them, screaming and crying aside.