Searching for Parenting Answers Where There Just Aren't Any

by Emma Waverman
Originally Published: 

We’ve all heard parents blame teething for a variety of infant behaviors, including weeks and months of drooling and night waking. But guess what? According to an article in Slate, teething generally produces very mild symptoms, which means it’s not the culprit after all.

Like many parents locked in a pre-dawn cycle of crying and soothing, I wanted to give my child something to ease the pain, but also to label and identify her experience—and mine. I wanted to blame teething because it’s an easy answer to what is perhaps an impossible question.

I have been in this parenting game for a decade and a half, and I am still searching for reasons and antidotes for all kinds of irritations. If my daughter has a stomachache, I start to wonder if it’s appendicitis, when I should be looking at the early morning math test.

When my 12-year-old son is moody, I immediately reach for an apple because I assume he’s getting hangry, instead of accepting that’s what 12-year-olds are like.

My 15-year-old doesn’t drool, but he does keep late-night hours and is very irritable. Could it be his wisdom teeth? Is he worried about his peer group? Or perhaps it’s just the hormone soup that is push-pulling him in all sorts of directions? Would a one-on-one chat help? Maybe he needs an Advil? A hug?

And just like that, I am a mother searching for an answer in the middle of the night. One of the hardest things I have had to come to terms with is that there are no easy answers. My daughter may be tense about her math test, she may have appendicitis or perhaps she ate too many raisins. Most likely, she is delaying bedtime.

My tween could be hangry, he could be tired, or he could just be kind of a moody person, and there aren’t enough apples in the world to change that.

My teen may be up all night texting, reading comic books or doing things that I don’t want to think about. Maybe his wisdom teeth are coming in, or he’s stressed about the pressures of high school, or there’s some unknown heartache at the center of it all. Like babies, teens tend to be nonverbal except when irritated, so I’ll probably never get to the bottom of it, just as I never found out why there were three months of drooling.

Parenting is a world of unknowns, and every part of it that we can name helps us feel like we’re doing it better. But maybe accepting that we can’t solve every problem or soothe every bump and bruise is the better answer.

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