You Are Not Crying to Manipulate Me

Dear Daughter,

You are not crying to manipulate me. You are crying because you are hungry and I missed your quieter cues. You are asking to nurse because your little belly tells you that it is time and because a louder voice is the only way that you have to tell me after you’ve chewed on your hands and stuck your tongue out and tried to get my busy-adult attention when I was distracted by trying to wash your brother’s sheets.

You are not crying to manipulate me, you are asking to sit up because you want to see things and do things. You have an incredible inquisitive mind that wants to drink the whole world in. You are frustrated by your lack of independence.

You are not crying to manipulate me. You are crying because a noise that I have come to understand and ignore has startled you. All of the things that you heard before you were born were softened by the waters that you floated in and the muscle and skin that kept you safe. How jagged must the world sound now?

You are not crying to manipulate me. You are crying because the world is overstimulating. You crave the supported independence of our arms where you can bury your face against our chest when it all becomes too much. You crave the nearness that allows you to sync your breath and your heartbeat to ours. You crave the closeness that allows you to startle as you do reflexively, but then learn to find your calm in ours as we understand what is and is not safe.

You are not crying to manipulate me. You are crying because you want to sit up, to look around, to see all of the things that you know are there but that you cannot turn to, stuck on your back or your belly without the physical independence that you need. You crave the supported independence that you feel when you cling to me and move your head freely as you look around.

Asking something from me is not manipulation, and you don’t yet have the words to ask with anything but tears.

I don’t need to worry about your motivations.

I just have to ask this: Is what you want possible right now? Is what you want something that is healthy for you? Is what you want out of line with something that you need?

Later when you learn to ask for ice cream and then cry over your upset I will give you comfort.

Right now, though, every want is aligned with a need. And every need of yours is simple enough for me to meet.

<3 Mama

6 thoughts on “You Are Not Crying to Manipulate Me

  1. Only the most ignorant would think someone who cannot walk, speak, feed themselves or even crawl was attempting to communicate their needs… so why do otherwise intelligent adults think a baby would have ulterior motives?
    Excellent piece.

  2. Humans learn from other humans. When you have grown up hearing that babies manipulate and toddlers manipulate and then you read books while you’re pregnant that talk about how to “teach baby that crying doesn’t mean being picked up”, it’s absorbed into your bloodstream practically.

    I don’t think that it’s ignorance, per se. I don’t agree with it (obviously), but I understand how people get that stuff into their heads.

  3. I wish I could carry this around to recite to everyone that says my child is trying to manipulate me by crying and I should just let her cry and leave her in bed, or let her cry and stay in her stroller etc.

  4. Love it, Sarah! Again, something I think about put so perfectly into words. I don’t feel that my almost-11 month old baby cries to manipulate me, he can’t talk yet, so that’s his way to communicate still. Although what he thinks he needs and wants are not always what I’m going to let him have- the cat’s water dish, the pen I’m writing with, big sister’s glasses. Great post!

    1. Yep, I won’t always let my 2 year old have what he wants either. But I don’t think he is “manipulating” me when he throws a tantrum because he’s upset and frustrated and wants to control his life.

      *I* want to be able to control my life. And when I can’t, I get.. upset and frustrated. But because I’m an adult I have appropriate coping skills and emotional maturity that a two year old obviously doesn’t have.

      Manipulation, bull. It’s an upset kid that wants mommy or daddy to make it better because we’re godlike.

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