The Crying Game

Puzzles and video games can be fun, but parenting is the ultimate challenge.
Your object: to raise a happy, healthy child of sound moral character. It sounds simple enough. But, just when you think you’ve mastered one level, you’ve entered another chaotic stage, seemingly harder than the one before. You try and you err; you panic and you pray. You can only hope you’re winning.
I found myself thrown into my most recent round of the mom-athalon at 3:30 this morning when Frank woke up screaming. He’s been sleeping through the night for almost six months, so I was no longer used to being startled awake 90 minutes early. But, as parents, we are on duty 24 hours a day and must report to the battlefield immediately when summoned.
“Aww, Frankie,” I sighed as I lifted him to my shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
Still he wailed.
The challenge at this level of the game is that the child in need of our help can’t tell us what it is that they need to be happy. And so, we must guess.
Frank hates to be wet, so I changed his ever-so-slightly damp diaper.
Still he wailed.
“Let Mommy hold you,” I told him, taking him with me to my bed.
Still he wailed.
How presumptuous to think that he’d want me. “You want some milk?” I asked him. “Let’s go get a bottle.”
I’d left my glasses in my car, so I cautiously crept downstairs, a discontent baby Frank shedding tears on my shoulder. I poured the milk as quickly as my weak eyes would allow and handed Frank the bottle, expecting him to accept it with the gratitude of a lottery winner receiving a giant check speckled with zeroes.  
He pushed it away and wailed even harder.
By now, I was growing frustrated, not with Frank, who didn’t ask to be here in the first place and was visibly miserable, but with my own incapacities as a mother. Why couldn’t I make my baby happy? I prayed that God would send relief.
Frank, the unclaimed bottle, and I returned to my bed, where an awakened and confused Patrick asked if everything was okay.
Over the screams, I told him I didn’t know what to do.
Patrick turned on the TV. And thanks be to God that Nick Jr. shows cartoons at 4 a.m. Frank began to sniffle and rub his eyes. He let out a giant sigh, grabbed his bottle, and drifted back to sleep.
We’d won another round of this game called parenting, but there are plenty more challenges ahead. And we can overcome them all with patience, determination, love and God. (Late night cartoons might come in handy, too.)
Hey, readers! I’m curious to hear your victory stories from the parenting trenches, too.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.