The Remarkable Helplessness of Babies - Dad for Beginners The Remarkable Helplessness of Babies - Dad for Beginners

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helplessness of babies

The Remarkable Helplessness of Babies

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As any new parent will surely attest, babies are remarkably helpless. It is frustrating. So frustrating, in fact, that online forums of emotional solace exist merely so new parents can vent their frustrations and confirm that they are, indeed, not clinically insane when they feel like tossing their baby off the third floor balcony. The helplessness of babies, however, is perfectly normal.

There is actually a psychological condition regarding parental anger towards a child. Of course, this “diagnosis” defines the anger of a new parent in relation to their fear of parenting in juxtaposition to their own childhood, thus making it sound like a deeply rooted psychological issue.

The psychological condition is called “Ghosts in the Nursery” and as a legitimate disorder, it is questionable at best. In all seriousness, any frustration I feel towards my child stems from his own helplessness and my inability to assuage him, not some subconscious sense of failure unknowingly harbored from my own parents’ failures. Seriously, psychology, stop trying to diagnose everything!

Outside of the “Ghosts” concept which is normally withheld for parents carrying emotional baggage from their own childhoods, there doesn’t seem to be a logical explanation for the anger we sometimes direct towards our helpless babies.

I look at my child lying there and I cannot help but think, “if I left him alone, he would die.” Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but before the week is out, he would certainly be dead. See, no matter how many resources you give a baby, they will remain helpless. The helplessness of babies is remarkable. You could put them in a comfortable bed, in the middle of a warm kitchen filled with ready-to-eat food, and a toilet. But it won’t matter, because if they are alone, they will still die. It is truly remarkable.

No other being in the animal kingdom is as helpless at and after birth as a human baby. Science will argue that this is actually beneficial to humans in the long run and that our helplessness in infancy allows for advanced cognitive development later on in life. As the parent, you are tasked with caring for a being that absolutely without any shadow of a doubt, cannot care for itself. At all. And therein lies the frustration. It is indeed a paradoxical dichotomy of love and hate.

helplessness of babies

This interesting little thing walks within hours

In any case, the fact remains that human babies are helpless. As a parent, the care for everything else you normally cared for; your home, your appearance, your house plants, your vehicle, everything, will seem simple in comparison to caring for a baby. All those things can wait. They can be done later, when you feel like it. Caring for a baby cannot wait, thus making it exceedingly frustrating. There is nothing to compare it to. Nothing you can do to practice. It is the true definition of trial-and-error. The helplessness of babies is something to marvel at. Take comfort knowing that at least it isn’t permanent.

The compensation for your years of enduring the helplessness of babies is not immediate. Sometimes it is so gradual that you’ll barely notice it. I find myself celebrating ridiculous milestones that no other being in the animal world would be the least bit proud of. Things like rolling over, swatting a colorful ornament in much in the same way a kitten bats a ball, smiling (yes, smiling is an accomplishment), feeding with measure (as opposed to attacking the boobie with the reckless abandon of a malnourished hyena), sleeping through the night, and so many others. These mediocre breakthroughs are symbolic of your child’s ascent up the food chain. They are landmarks as he transforms from a feeble mass of fleshy tissue into a little person, who will eventually discover countless other ways to infuriate you.

As the helplessness slowly subsides, remember all the times when you were the parent consulting the online advice forums as a last-ditch attempt to not chuck him out the window. Helplessness in infancy is something most organisms do not get to experience and it is certainly something that is so emphatically frustrating that it should be cherished as truly one of a kind.

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3 Comments

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