I’m no evolutionary biologist, but I have a theory about what makes homo sapiens the greatest species ever to grace planet Earth. But first, let me tell you about teething.
In the five months that I’ve been a parent, nothing has been as challenging as caring for my son as he begins the teething process. He’s getting his first tiny tooth right in the front of his mouth. It’s cute as hell, but evidently quite painful for him. Who knew the forced slicing of calcium rocks through your soft gum tissue could hurt so much?
It’s apparently most painful at night, which is just another cruel joke from Mother Nature. Uncontrolled screaming during the day can be dealt with (drinking), but there’s nothing I want to do less at 3 AM on a cold January morning than get out of bed.
One byproduct of teething no one tells you about is all the extra laundry you get to do. When a baby starts cutting teeth, the baby drool floodgates are cranked wide open. I’m not sure where my son had been hiding all this drool the past five months, but it’s all coming out now… all over him, me, my wife, and even our dog (who is loving it, BTW).
With all this drool, we’re swapping outfits like we’re in some sort of father-son runway fashion show. Yesterday, he was on his third onesie by lunch time. I simply gave up on the idea of showering for the day, because there wasn’t a waking moment where at least one shoulder wasn’t medium damp.
To keep this from being just another hilarious rant, I thought I’d share a few of the things that my wife and I have found to be helpful. Here are my tips for how to parent a teething baby:
- Before you ever get to the teething stage—like 15 months before—stop and consider whether or not you really want to have a child. If you decide you do, go get a second opinion from a close friend or relative who’s recently experienced the teething stage.
- If you’re still convinced it’s worth the risk, immediately start watching for sales on a strange, all-natural baby product called gripe water. I have no idea why it works, but this liquid formulation of ginger, fennel, and sometimes other herbal extracts has proven itself on a nightly basis. Naysayers will tell you that it’s just snake oil, but this stuff has been around for a long time and accumulated a loyal following of satisfied parents.
- Another product you should stock up on is also strange and all-natural. They’re called teething tablets, and unlike the gripe water, they may actually be snake oil (only in tablet form). Teething tablets fall under the oddest category of them all: homeopathy. They’re grandfathered in by the FDA to be labeled as drugs, but they’re 100 percent natural. Homeopathy is considered a pseudoscience by most, but everyone will agree that sleep rules and anything that will help your infant sleep better, and thusly help you sleep better, is worth giving the ol’ placebo effect a shot.
- Music has proven to be a great baby soother. My son loves everything from AC/DC to Adele, especially when I play “Someone Like You” on the piano and sing to him… through streaming tears. I’m also working on a conditioning experiment with him. If his teeth are hurting so much that not even the angelic voice of Adele can soothe him, I put on some country music. I hope this will Pavlov-dog train him into hating that wretched sound.
Other than alternating earplug nights with your significant other so at least one of you sleeps each night, these are my best tips. Keep in mind I’m working off of limited experience. My son is still working on his first tooth. If I learn any better tricks in the coming months, I’ll be sure to keep you updated.
Now, lest you think I’m some sort of blogger who never wraps up his opening thought, let me circle back to my theory of why mankind is so awesome. You might’ve been asking yourself what does a theory of awesomeness have to do with teething, which is inherently sucky? Good question, my quick-witted friend. Allow me explain.
I contend that all the sucky things that parents go through—teething, sleeping, bathing, daycare, colic, simply getting your kid dressed in the morning, venturing out in public together—combine to force us into establishing bonds that allow us to thrive like no other social species. While other animals are given a free ticket down easy street by giving birth to fully formed offspring who lick themselves clean, don’t cry, walk within hours, and come into the world with teeth already cut, humans are forced to suffer for each other simply to survive as a species.
How does suffering make us better? Like the rollercoaster that first must make the slow, agonizing climb up before you experience the payoff rush of racing down the other side, our suffering exacts an equal and opposite reaction in the form of love.
You can’t know one, at least not very well, without knowing the other. You need a frame of reference. If you only ever listened to country music, you would have no idea that any single Queen song chosen at random is exponentially greater than the whole genre combined. You would just assume country music is great.
It may sound corny, but I believe love is at the heart of not just what it is to be human, but also our evolution. Love for one another, yes, but also love for ideas, for creativity, for invention, for the arts and sciences, for the future. Our capacity to love makes us awesome, and we have teething, in part, to thank.