It’s tempting as a new parent to use the phrase “turn the corner.” As in “I think (insert adorable androgynous name here) has turned the corner. He used to only sleep for two hour stretches, but the past few nights, we’ve gotten 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep!” Or “Tiffani-with-an-I-and-a-heart-dotting-the-I didn’t cry at all when I put her down in our $250 bouncy chair so I could take a shower. I think she has turned the corner!” This is wishful thinking, of course. We want our kids to learn and progress, especially when it means more sleep and more hands-free time for us. But we’re also unrealistic in a lot of cases. Babies don’t seem to be on a linear track to me, where one step forward is always followed by another step forward. Or, maybe they are, but as parents we view progress through the narrow scope of “convenient for us.”

Declan has recently become more of a pain to put to sleep. Instead of reliably zonking out on my chest after a feeding, and then staying asleep in the crib, he dozes off, then jerks awake, dozes off, wants to suck on something, wants to look at me, wants skin contact, then fusses and kicks in the crib once I put him down, necessitating more of the above-listed activities. Eventually, for reasons unknown to me, he sleeps. Most of the time, it’s not because I did anything different. It’s just… because. Is that progress? Is that “turning the corner”? Not according to the bags under my eyes, or the words just inches away from my lips as a middle-of-the-night episode drags on and I just want to grab him by the shoulders like a football coach and say “Go the %#*& to sleep!” But who am I to define progress? Development at this stage happens so fast that maybe he’s just becoming more aware of his surroundings and, for awhile, that complicates sleep. Makes it seem scarier. Or less desirable. Or something.

There’s a line in the Bob Dylan song “Love Minus Zero.” He’s describing qualities of his love and says “she knows too much to argue or to judge.” That’s it right there. As parents, we want turning the corner to go something like this:
1) Child sees map.
2) Child puts finger on Arizona one day.
3) Child can point out Arizona from now on.

But I think the reality is more like this:
1) Child sees map.
2) Child puts finger on Arizona one day.
3) Parent tells child to show them Arizona again.
4) Child poops on Mississippi, loses balance, falls over on map.
5) Parent tells child to show them Arizona.
6) Child puts map in mouth.
7) Parent tells child to show them Arizona.
8) Child screams unintelligible word while pointing at Washington, grows increasingly frustrated with parent pointing somewhere else.
9) Parent tells child to show them Arizona.
10) Child throws dinner off table, nowhere near map.
100) Child can suddenly point to Arizona, knows where he lives inside the state, and can make dry observations like “People wear funny jeans in Scottsdale.”

If parenting is an exercise in letting go, the phrase “turning the corner” probably ought to be retired. Admit it: we don’t know where the road leads, where it curves, what’s around the next bend… other than the day when our children become self-sufficient adults and don’t need us anymore. And so, really, what’s the rush to turn that corner? They’ll develop in their own time, in their own way. We just have to be there. No need to argue or to judge, as tempting as it is. It’s love. Minus zero.

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