Dear Brand New Mom: Listen To What They Can’t Say

Dear Brand New Mom,

Learning to understand your child’s cues is a skill you will work hard to develop over their lifetime. It starts when they are newborns and continues when they are teenagers. It didn’t dawn on me that this was a lifelong skill until I was faced with two tweens who have their own way of communicating. I don’t just mean slang and eye rolling – it’s the sporadic bids for affection, the knowing when to steer clear or drop an issue, and finding ways to connect despite their ever-growing autonomy.

kyle10-001Although as infants they could only cry, they were expressing some need: whether it be hunger, tiredness, pain, loneliness, irritation, or something else. Figuring out what the cry means is one of the hardest things about parenting an infant!

When my 11-year-old son recently got an immunization, he complained for a WEEK about the pain in his arm. It dawned on me that I never really knew how he felt before he could talk. Did he always feel a lot of pain? Behavior such as sensory avoidance or seeking is now part of our daily life as it affects his ability to fall asleep, but I wonder, could it have been part of his struggle to calm down as an infant? When he was little, the determination and frustration to grasp a certain object just out of reach could have showed me his stubbornness and strong will that he exhibits today. Every time I learn something new about my child, even after so many years, I feel like I probably have seen it before (or somehow should have anticipated it).

They say hindsight is 20/20, and I do believe that’s true. Perhaps wondering what your baby could be feeling, and empathizing with their tiny soul will bring you one step closer to understanding their needs and who they are. You’ll figure out their personality at a very young age with careful observation. You may never know what they are feeling, or what is happening in their brain, but I bet you will do everything in your power to figure it out, and THAT’S being a mom. You’ve got this.

Sincerely,

A Mom Who’s Been There

(The PEPS leader in me feels the need to share some resources on the topic too: A video from Parent Trust and a handout from The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning. And because sensory processing disorder is something not many people know about, as a PSA I’d also like to share this great story “The Emperor’s New Onesie” on the subject.)


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Jen Winckler is a Newborn PEPS leader in Snohomish County. She is a stay at home mom (aka. Volunteeraholic) to two boys, ages 12 and 10, and is still trying to navigate the constant curve balls that parenting dishes out. She used to dread the minivan driving soccer mom title, but has come to love watching her boys play their hearts out (and did sell the minivan as soon as they could open their own doors without banging the car in the next stall).

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