It had to be 2 in the morning when I awoke and found my husband was not in bed. Our daughter was around 8 weeks old, so I thought he might be changing a diaper. I lay there a little while, but he didn’t come back, so I got up to look for him. He wasn’t in the baby’s room, and neither was the baby. I was still pretty groggy so it seemed like a strange dream when I peered into the living room and saw my husband in his PJs, holding our very alert, almost euphoric baby girl on his knee as he bounced with surprising vigor, given the hour, on my extra-large, iridescent, inflatable exercise ball. The look on his face, while not exactly maniacal, was definitely frantic.
“This is the only thing that stops her from crying,” he pleaded before I could ask him what the heck was going on.
“Honey, you have to just let her cry. It’s late.” And so, reluctantly, he laid her in the crib and collapsed onto our bed. The baby cried for maybe half a minute. I guess all that bouncing had tuckered her out, too. It seems they’d been at it for over an hour. One thing’s clear: There’s nothing quite like sleep-deprivation combined with the sound of a crying baby for impairing judgment. I’m sure that’s in a CIA manual somewhere.
Normally I’m not much of a “just-let-the-baby-cry” type, but you know what they say about too much of a good thing. Sometimes you have to go too far just to see where you draw that line.
Two Halloweens ago, when my daughter was 9 years old, I let her eat as much candy as she wanted to. She ended up a shaking, twitching, crying mess, finally falling asleep in my lap. I guess she learned something about too much that night. I learned something about too little. I learned that she was too little for that much sugar, too little for that much latitude, and mostly that I had given her too little guidance. It’s a thin line we parents walk, a swaying tightrope between too much and too little.