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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Burden of Existence

My husband wrote this observation in 1997, more than ten years before we had the babies. It provides a thoughtful perspective and broader implications to my daily seemingly-miniscule struggles with them, a main point of contention being that I cannot understand why anyone would want to spend so much of their time in distress, particularly over whether or not they can have ice cream for breakfast.

"A baby's crying jag and how permanent it begins to seem, as if it will never stop – and as if it should never stop, as if it were the most natural response to being in life: not silence but rebellious yet hopeless crying. An interruption feels tenuous: the baby will soon begin crying again. For it will take him years to get used to the discomforts, the tedium of being alive. The mother is helplessness to find a single source of distress: all she can do is find a temporarily effective distraction. Her genius, which is also society's, lies in finding such distractions – not cures but distractions, an illusion of all-rightness."

He sent this to me, laughing at how spot-on a childless man could be. His outsider status at the time, combined with his absolute intelligence and ability to think through any scenario regardless of experience succeeded in hitting upon a point I - being drowned in this - would never have thought of.

Existence is hard.

So many times I'm at a loss, as my children seem to be actively looking for the next thing to cry over. Why would such happy babies want to be sad all of the time? Perhaps it is deeper than them, perhaps it is deeper than all of us.


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  1. Wow, that was a really insightful observation, particularly for someone without kids. Existence can be hard and I think it is helpful to talk about, to write about it, to be entirely honest about it so that it doesn't suffocate us.
    Jenn xx

  2. Not nearly as deep, but I always say about babies crying on airplanes, (especially long flights and when we are waiting in uncirculated air to get off the damn tarmac) "Don't worry, he's just saying what we are all feeling."

  3. Why do you think of your children as babies? They walk, they talk, they are potty trained. Just by looking at the pictures you post here it's clear they are long past being babies.


  4. You picked an interesting post to make this complaint, though it is normally a valid one. In this particular post, I am talking about babies in the general sense, and when I refer to my children at the end, I say children. The beginning reference to my children "before we had the babies" implies the time when they were babies.

    That being said, I refer to them as babies because to me, until I can have back and forth, sentence-structured conversations with them based on human logic and appropriate emotion, they're going to be babies.

    This is probably a strange definition, but I'm not a technical expert, so I think I can get away with it.

  5. LOL... way to try and detract from a truly insightful and quotable post :P

    Your husband is a man of great depth and compassion and vision. I love what he wrote. Thanks for sharing it with all of us :)

  6. interesting thought.
    ps- i always refer to my kids as "the babies" and my oldest is four ;)



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