Brace yourself: The zero to ten scale


The best advice Ryan and I got during our first days with Julian came from a source that I can no longer remember, perhaps the pediatrician who made rounds in the hospital.  It was this:

Babies need to go from 0 to 10 on a daily basis. A sleeping baby is at 0 and may spend most of his day that way. At 10, loud and incessant crying, your baby is also doing his job.  At 0, 1, and 2, you probably feel like a pretty good parent, while at 8, 9, and 10 you assume you are doing everything wrong, your baby is in terrible pain, and wish that someone, perhaps the real mother of this baby, would come show you what the problem is.

Remember this scale, rookie moms.  Your own baby’s crying is surprisingly difficult to endure.  And it’s not because you’ve been reinvented as the most empathetic person on the planet or because you are so completely bonded with your baby. It’s because the sound is blood-curdlingly horrific and you know that no one else is responsible. Whatever the problem is, it’s yours to solve.

There might not be a problem is the point, however. It might just be your baby’s daily visit to the number 10. Rock her, change her, shush her, swing her, feed her. Even put her down in her crib and leave the room. Hey, for some kids, that works!

Remember this tip, pregnant readers, so that when your baby is at 5, 6, or 7, you can maintain a little perspective and save some energy for the rating of 10 that typically arrives around 4 or 5 pm.

Toddler and preschooler moms, are you still reading? Here’s my advanced patented theory of parenting: Your walking, talking child also needs to go from 0 to 10 on a daily basis. That’s why he’s hyperventilating over a light switch that you flipped on when he wanted to DO IT BY MAH SELF! He’s just exercising his ability to get to 10.

Maintaining perspective for the preschool set: When your kid is bouncing off the walls with glee, rolling around in the laundry you just folded, and hurling plastic tractors down a slide toward other kids, at least it is a happy 10. Isn’t it more pleasant than a tantrum about getting in the car seat that forced you to brace your knee against your child’s torso while you buckled him in? What? I do this to my daughter on a regular basis.

Find some positive ways to help your child get to 10 every day, to run around like a  maniac; to jump on a pile of pillows, stuffed animals, and scarves; to throw rocks into water; and to scream “HOORAY!” and “POOP IS FUNNY!” loud enough for the neighbors to hear.  Then hope that you’ve bought yourself another day.


Does your child reach 10 every day? What tip have you passed on the most to new parents?

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