Parenthood: A Study in Ambiguity

24 Feb

Ambiguous.  In my mind, it means “largely undefined.”  I didn’t check Webster’s.  So take that with a grain of salt.

Parenting, I’ve discovered, is full of ambiguous words and phrases.


  • You think you know what it means.  Until you ask your doctor how much you should be feeding your 3 month old and he says “Enough.  Just stop when he’s full and content.”  How can you know when enough is enough, when your baby protests every time you take the bottle away?  When he will finish an entire 6 ounce bottle (which we did determine was too much for this particular three-month old) with gusto?

Sleeping through the night.

  • You and I would probably define sleeping through the night as a good, respectable 8 hours.  It’s officially defined as sleeping from 12 am to 5 am, or the equivalent (maybe starting at 10 and ending at 3 am).  Would I say my son was sleeping through the night when he slept from 12 to 5 and then woke to eat?  No, not really, because I certainly need more sleep than that!


  • What does it really mean?!  Drooling and blowing bubbles?  Or the actual process of teeth coming through?  Teething (generally just the drooling part) can start at about 4 months, but the average baby doesn’t get his or her first tooth until about 7 months.  So when does it really, truly start and when does it really, truly end?  You could probably say babies are teething until they get their last molar, but nobody I know says that.  They seem to link it to a specific, especially cranky period.  We could probably say our baby has been teething, off and on, for the last month – but he still isn’t showing any pearly whites.


  • Again, this is one that the pediatricians do define with a loose set of “if’s.”  If your baby cries for three hours or more every day… you will feel crazed by the end of the day, and you can probably say your baby is colicky.  There are a few other if’s.  Mom’s and Grandma’s might use the term a bit more often.  “Oh, he’s just a little colicky this afternoon.”  Meaning, perhaps, that his tummy hurts because of gas bubbles.  We had a slightly colicky baby.  We didn’t have continuous hours of crying – mostly, I’ve decided, because we held him during the tricky times (3 to 6 pm and 7 to 10 pm) – which, let me tell you, results in a whole different thing to overcome.  Thank goodness colic ends.


  • I’m getting the feeling that my word choice of “ambiguous” doesn’t actually fit my list very well.  Because love isn’t ambiguous either.  This love you have for your child, it’s just immeasurable and even surprising.  It’s the kind of love that says “awww how cute” when your baby looks at you with milk all over his chin and drooling down his neck, and the kind that says “oopsy it’s okay!” when he spits up immediately after your “awww,” totally missing the bib and the burp cloth, but landing it squarely on your sweatshirt and on your clean (first time in a week!) jeans.  Then he grins a wide, milky, drooly grin at you, and you get the rush of love all over again.  The kind of love that drags you wearily from deep sleep at 3 a.m. and you actually feel happy, because he beams up at you from his crib, as if to say “You listened!  I knew you would!”  The kind of love that helps you forget the sleep-deprived months and difficult adjustments and seemingly endless hours of fussiness, so that you look fondly back at those first few months and wish they hadn’t gone by so quickly.

It’s the kind of crazy love I can’t even put into words, so I end up with a lot of conglomerated thoughts instead.  And I express those thoughts with baby talk daily.


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