Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Preemptive Cry Interception

All is right in the kitchen. Little Michael is playing happily on the tile floor. He's long since mastered the art of sitting up, so there is no need to place a protective ring of pillows around him. Enter the dog, 35 pounds of rolicking, oblivious Corgidor. She dances sideways, hoping for a morsel of food, and runs solidly into the baby.

He topples backward onto the cruel hard floor. The impact doesn't look too terrible, but the tell-tale signs of a huge cry are already appearing on his little face.

Little eyes squeeze shut in a grimace. His mouth opens and twists itself into a pitiful litle upside-down U. His lungs are expanding, taking in the huge breath that will fuel the hellish sonic fury that will soon follow. Little cheeks have reddened. The table is set for an explosion of infantile grief.

This is where quick thinking and parenting can save the day. Before he even hitsthe floor, I am in motion. I scoop Mikey up and begin the emergency preemptive cry interdiction procedure. The basic steps are: Pick up, hug, bounce, shush, and say "you're ok" over and over again. This can normally stabilize the situation, but there will probably be some residual screaming.

The next phase of intercepting a serious cry is the happiness distraction gambit. It's amazing that a hurt little baby can go from screeching to laughing and playing in mere seconds if the happiness gambit is applied correctly. For this one, I raise my voice into the horrifying falsetto that babies seem to enjoy and repeat the celebratory words, "YAY YAY! That was fun! YAY YAY!"

I quickly try to find something interesting like a mirror, a terrified cat named Velcro, or a colorful toy. The combination of the happy sounds and the new, interesting object defuses the situation, and the happy laughing baby returns. All memories of being bodyslammed by the dog have faded away.

This post is based on a true story.

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