News bulletin: My kid is a pill.
Shocking, I know. At 5 weeks old, he’s living up to Marc Weissbluth’s observation that babies get progressively crankier until 6 weeks and then begin to settle down. I attribute this to several things: 1) His digestive system is working itself out and he is gassy a lot. 2) His social awareness is developing but he’s not good at handling it yet. He wants to be involved all the time but it’s too much for him. 3) His body hasn’t begun producing melatonin yet so he doesn’t know that nights are for sleeping. He likes to play in the middle of the night. 4) He’s becoming more aware of his surroundings so he’s less adaptable to intrusions like outings and visitors.
Anyway, that’s my boy. He cries a lot and I know his cries. This cry is his annoyed, selfish, angry cry. I can pretty much hear him say “How dare you cross me?” at 2 a.m. when I try to put him to bed during his self-selected play time. When I have clocked 6 hours of sleep in the 48 hours leading up to that cry, I do not find his pouty lip cute.
I dropped my husband off at work this morning and won’t see him again till tomorrow night. He’s headed to Wisconsin to pick up his newly acquired practice organ. As we drove we prayed together. That’s when it hit me:
The last two days and nights have been very hard on me. Lots of people, little sleep, noisy nights with my stubborn boy, and some returning post-partum pain. I have not felt very loving toward my precious little son when he wakes in the night. I feel bad because this is a change for me. He is annoying me and I don’t immediately feel tender toward him as soon as I see his teary face like I used to. Probably this is partly because what used to be pure need for him is becoming tinged with desire, and so it’s a battle of my desire for sleep against his desire for attention. I’m a selfish person.
But love, say Paul and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and a blogger I read, is not always a feeling. Love is a verb. The fact is, I DO love my boy. I love him 24 hours a day. I never stop loving him and I rarely DO anything else these days.
Where we get confused is in the difference between love and joy. Love is a verb. Joy is an attitude, an emotion, a feeling if you will. Now, I believe that joy is a choice. But sometimes it just comes to us, too. Sometimes things like sleep loss get in its way. But as a virtue, joy is something we can pray for, and so this morning I prayed that I’d love my son, and I prayed that doing it would bring me joy.