The politically incorrect truth about fathers and infant care....Whether they're working-class guys or professionals (psychiatrists), men (as a general rule) do not respond with empathy to a crying infant. They respond with hostility.
If crying child bugs you, get out of the room
Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 9:19 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 9:19 a.m.
On March 21, the Hendersonville Times-News published an article about a man being charged "with felony child abuse inflicting serious injury after a 29-day-old baby boy suffered multiple fractures and external bruising in February." The injured child is his son.
I do not know any of the circumstances involved, but I can speculate. I wrote the following some time ago, hoping it might prevent at least one such occurrence:
Last year, a Bryson City man was sentenced to three years in prison for severely beating his 4-month-old twin sons, even breaking their legs. Apparently they would cry "and get on his nerves." A heinous crime, no doubt perpetrated by some low-life psychotic scumbag. After all, how many reasonable people would ever want to hit such young children for crying?
Plenty. I will admit my children's cries "got on my nerves." I didn't beat them, but the impulse was there. And I think most men know that impulse, if they are honest with themselves. We can deny the human condition, but that won't change it. It's like we're hard-wired to leave the cave and go kill a woolly mammoth when we hear a child crying. For me, I learned to check to ensure the child was fine, and then just leave the room, maybe crank the stereo a bit.
Ten years ago, my wife and I were running a commercial fishing business in Canada. We had a young couple from Newfoundland working for us. The couple became pregnant and decided to move home to Newfoundland to be with family as they awaited their first child. We threw them a going-away party.
A father for many years, I wanted to give the young man some advice. After several drinks and much laughter, I turned to Billy.
"Billy, I've got some advice for you. If the baby is crying and driving you crazy, just check to make sure the kid's OK, doesn't have a wet diaper, isn't hungry, is safe in the crib. Then get out of the room."
Billy just nodded, looked a little quizzical, but seemed to get the message. I hoped he would remember it, should such a moment arise. I thought it was the best advice I could give him based on my own experiences, and the all-too frequent stories in the media of people, mostly men, hurting children of all ages. The shaken-baby syndrome. I do not believe all these people are evil incarnate, because I have wanted to silence the cries of my own children. Nobody told me I could just leave the room, just get away.
My wife overheard what I said to Billy and was aghast. How could I say such things to a soon-to-be father? How negative could I be? And to advise him to leave the child alone?
A week later, I related all this to my psychiatrist cousin, Wray. He told me a story.
Like the Bryson City man, Wray had twin sons, who are now in their early 30s. He was working as a psychiatrist in Cleveland, as was his psychiatrist wife. Wray's wife left the house for work at 7 a.m.; Wray left at 8, when the nanny would arrive. Wray was responsible for the infant boys for only one hour each morning.
"One of the boys woke up and started crying," Wray said. "Just one. And I wanted to throw that f------ kid out the window."
"And I'm a trained psychiatrist," he added.
Wray explained to me that he had no money troubles, no mortgage worries, no employment issues and had a good relationship with his wife. Plus a nanny coming in one hour.
"And yet I wanted to throw the kid out the window," he said. "What about the poor guy who dropped out of high school, can't find work or money to pay the rent, and hasn't anyone coming to relieve him in the foreseeable future? How bad must it be for him?"
I don't know anything about the Bryson City man going to jail for three years, but I'm sure everyone would agree it would have been better for all involved if he had just left the room. Whether the kids had dirty diapers or not.
I have long wished for public service ads on television, radio or print to carry this message to new parents and caregivers: If the kid is driving you nuts or "getting on your nerves," get out of the situation. Make sure the kid is safe, and then — Get out of the room!
Benson is a Canadian writer and journalist who makes Hendersonville his winter home.