Generational wisdom says that babies can sense that you are being impatient with them, and they in response become further uncooperative. You end up in a cyclical fight to tears and bedtime becomes a war zone.
But I don’t think this is the case. I don’t think that these tiny little neural networks that can’t tell that not everything is food, can decipher the complex emotion that is impatience… yet.
More than likely, what happens is that our animal brains tend to use that impatience to skip a few crucial steps or focus on only our own desires – that of getting the baby to sleep and for us to get out. Skipping those steps means you forget that babies need soothing, a calm environment and demeanor, and a little bit of play to relax and be amenable to sleeping.
A good example of this comes from the work of software development. Very often, as a software developer, I’ll run into some problem which in the moment seems insurmountable. I can pound at it for hours and it doesn’t budge. The recommended strategies in such a case are to do one of the following –
1. Go for a walk. Go, grab a coffee or lunch. Let your mind wander. Forget about the problem at hand and let your mind decompress. As often happens when you’re trying to remember something that’s on the tip of your tongue, letting go is the easiest way to trick your brain into coming up with the solution.
2. Explain the problem to a fellow coder. The process of explaining the problem very often reveals the hidden bias or flaw in our logic. It lets us review our work and very often even during the very first overview, we come up with the solution to whatever is troubling us. This is why it’s said that the best way to learn something is to teach it. The preparation to teaching it or showing it to someone else tricks your brain into being more critical of the information you’ve received and thinking through its logic deeply.
3. Let someone else take the reigns. If all else fails, step back. Let someone else poke and prod at the code, very often in situ – it’s possible that if you let them work on your system that they’ll reveal an environmental issue or design consideration that wouldn’t be valid if the code were running on their system or a common system. So hand them your baby (pun intended) and let them figure out what’s wrong.
I think you get the drift – all of these are applicable to babies as well. If you’re at your wits end with your baby, hand them to a trustworthy partner and go do something else. Even if it’s something as mindless as washing the dishes. If you think you’re burning out, give your partner the problem to solve and they might shine a light on the issue which was preventing you from the ultimate goal – a happy, healthy baby.