The Language of Cry

August 17, 2006 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

I always used to wonder how in the heck parents knew what their infants wanted when they cried. I would hear parents say “oh, he’s hungry”, or “he’s just tired,” or “he’s working on a number two”. To all of you future parents out there I say this: you’ll figure it out. Seriously, don’t worry about it.

And don’t worry if other people think you don’t really know what your baby wants. They’re probably wrong. We have run into this problem a few times. I’ll pick on my parents as an example. A recent conversation between The Missus and my mom went a little like this:

Grandma: He has been a little fussy this afternoon.
The Missus: Is he hungry? That sounds like a hungry cry.
G: No, I don’t think so. He pushed the bottle away.
TM: He may still be hungry. Here, let me see.
G: No, see? [She puts the bottle in his mouth for half a second. Robbie doesn’t immediately take it.] He doesn’t want it.

This continued for a few minutes, with The Missus becoming ever more agitated while her baby cried in grandma’s arms. Eventually The Missus got Robbie, held a bottle in his mouth, and he took it. Over the next hour he downed a whopping nine ounces of formula, way more than he would normally eat in that period. Clearly he was, indeed, hungry.

Now, I’m not trying to put down my mom here. She knows she goofed. It’s not her fault she didn’t read Robbie’s crying correctly. I’m just passing on this anecdote to remind parents that although grandparents are a great resource and they know a lot about parenting, often maternal/paternal instincts are the best guide. You can’t spend that much time around your child without picking up on his unique behaviors and quirks. More often than not your best parenting coach is your own child.

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