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Parent Moments: Karma in a Teething Ring

Call me superstitious, but I'm convinced that by breaking two cardinal rules of parenting, I single-handedly brought about the worst bout of teething and longest crying jag in the history of baby-rearing.

Cardinal Rule of Parenting No. 1: Love your children. Cherish them. Even go so far as to harbor a modest amount of pride. But do not, under any circumstances, brag.

I had already experienced many of the first milestones and parenting firsts with my 27-month-old, Sabrina, when Jake was born. But Jake soon proved himself to be unique in his own right. For the first six months of his life, he never cried. When he was hungry, he sucked on his fingers. When his diaper needed to be changed, he squirmed. Crying was not necessary, because he was perfect, and I told as much to everyone who asked. Clearly, it was genetic, because his older sister was perfect, too. Confident the perfection would be life-long, I bragged -- to everyone who would listen -- saying, "This baby is perfect. He never cries! Never!"

Cardinal Rule of Parenting No. 2: Don't criticize other people's parenting.

At the grocery store one day, I snapped Jake's car seat into place on the grocery cart, buckled Sabrina securely into the toddler seat, and pulled my list out of my purse. Up one aisle and down the next, I compared prices, tucked items into the cart under Jake's seat as he cooed contentedly, and crossed items off of my list -- the very model of efficiency.

Then, coming down the aisle toward me, was another mom with two little ones. One of her children was crying, though -- loud, and getting louder by the second. This baby wailed. We met again on the next aisle. And the aisle after that. And the aisle after that, too. I watched as the other mom patted, shushed, and offered the pacifier. I noticed that as she did all of these things, she never stopped shopping.

Somewhere around the 5th or 6th aisle, feeling irritated to the point of distraction, I muttered under my breath something about how this other mom should know when to call it quits and go home.

It wasn't long after that the universe responded to my reckless disregard of cardinal rules 1 and 2. My son -- the one who didn't cry at all during his first six months of life -- started teething. With the teething came colds. With the colds came ear infections. And with the ear infections came crying.

I don't mean the kind of fussiness my oldest had with her teeth. I mean full volume, round-the-clock, max out the Tylenol dosage, put cotton in our ears because there's nothing else we can do crying.

My perfect baby cried from the moment his first tooth started coming in to the moment the last one erupted -- which translated to fourteen straight months of crying.

I am not exaggerating. Ask anyone who knows us.

For those who are wondering, 14 months translates to approximately 56 trips to the grocery store with a crying baby in tow, because guess what I found out? Even if the baby won't stop crying, we still need to eat. At least I'd learned something from my run-in with the other mom.

Somehow, we survived. Sometimes I wonder if Jake would have had such a hard time teething if I hadn't bragged all about town and criticized that poor mom and her crying kid. I'll never know for sure, but I do know this: Today, when I see a mom with a crying baby at the grocery store, I step aside and wish her well. And when I think my children are at their very best, I reflect on the moment with quiet gratitude, fully aware that this, too, shall pass.

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