Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cry, Baby

One of the most crucial aspects of dealing with an infant is developing an ability to interpret their individual cries and what each means. A fierce, prolonged cry, for example, might mean that they are hungry; a fading, tired cry that they are ready for sleep; or a sharp, angry cry that they're gassy. The list goes on....

I will say for myself that by the time my kids were a few weeks old my cry-deciphering was in excellent form. I could usually make out what they needed from several rooms away based on nothing more than the tenor of their wails.

If only it were so simple with adults.

For example, let's take....me. My temperament is, well, let's just say it's temperamental. So much so that I once heard my mother say of me

"My daughter! She'll never know the simple joy of an unexpressed emotion."

All this to say that it wouldn't have been entirely unheard of, in the early days of our marriage, for my husband to suddenly come upon me storming around the house, weeping copiously, and slamming the occasional door for emphasis. He'd hold out his hands toward me like a tamer approaching an underfed and possibly rabid tiger and ask timidly:

"What's wrong, dear?"

And then, it was on.

David would sit patiently on the receiving end of a tearful litany of those who had wronged me, beginning with, say, Becky Wilson, who didn't invite me to her bat mitzvah in the 7th grade even though we were totally friends and ending with the lady at the pharmacy this morning that promised my order would be ready in three minutes but that was a huge dirty lie!

At some point in the evening I'd wind down, exhaust myself, and head off to bed, only to apologize over breakfast the next morning for carrying on so...

Things took a turn for the better when my husband finally realized that, much like our infant son, my cries meant something. In fact, they inevitably meant one of two things:

A) I needed a nap


B) I needed a snack

Following this realization, David changed his ways. He stopped asking me what was wrong. Instead, the moment he saw me grumping around (to borrow a phrase from my nephew Greg) he'd simply offer me a sandwich. If I finished the sandwich and was still fussing, he would point me toward the bedroom and demand I lay down for a nap...

...and thus, our household became a place of calm.

Or at least it did until last weekend, when my husband was about a third of the way through his list of household chores. As he stood in the yard, gloomily sorting through stuff from the storage unit, I listened to his voice floating in through the open window. There were some grunts, followed by the occasional groan, and before long curse words were being murmured with increasing intensity. After several minutes I headed out to the back yard with a cold beer in my hand and handed it to my husband, saying,

"You know honey? Why don't you take a break for a while? Come on inside, sit on the couch, and watch some golf on TV. Maybe I'll even make us some brownies!"

His cry having been correctly deciphered, my husband stopped fussing immediately and trotted inside past Crinkles, who was wailing in his bassinet...

...because he needed a change.