Kate and I have taken Ruby out to restaurants since she was a week or two old, and she’s generally been pretty happy just to hang out in her sling and watch the forks go by. But this isn’t really true any more — if we have wanted to take her to a restaurant lately, we’ve had to be very aware of the timing and get her when she’s asleep, or at the very least happy. If not, we’ll have a rushed, anxious meal. In fact, we’ll probably have a rushed, anxious meal anyway.
Ruby and I had lunch with my buddy Chong a few days ago. She was getting towards the end of her awake cycle and so started to get crabby, occasionally letting out yelps of discontent. Chong and I passed her back and forth so that we could take turns eating our turkey sandwiches. At one point while Chong was holding her, she let out a yelp. And he chastised her! He said, in a firm (and loud, but Chong doesn’t do quiet) voice: “Ruby, no! That’s enough!”
That hurt. It’s hard to say what bothered me about it — did I want to protect her? Was it knowing the futility of the reprimand? Whatever it was, it made me sad. I don’t think Chong did anything wrong — he’s used to being firm with puppies and nephews, and truth be told, he probably did the right thing.
It’s probably time to start setting some boundaries.
This will be a gradual transition, I expect, but it’s still a major one. Until now we’ve been floating along with Ruby, getting to know her, and responding to her every need. But soon, I think, we’ll need to start teaching her about the needs of the people around her. Kate and I will have to shoulder the sad burden of denying our child something she wants. In addition to being Ruby’s primary caregivers, we’ll also be the primary withholders. The former will vastly outweigh the latter, of course, but even those rare denials are going to hurt every time.
How do you teach consequences, empathy, or a sense of the future to a four-month-old? She’s still trying to figure out how to get her entire fist into her mouth. It’s probably too early to try these things. So I ask my readers with parenting experience: when did you start setting boundaries, and what were they? Honestly, I can’t even picture how that would work.
But one day… “It’s for her own good.” Repeat ad nauseum.