In 9th grade I lived in Salt Lake City, and a bunch of us Mutual kids decided to visit the Hogle Zoo. We stopped by the petting zoo area, where goats and sheep were bleating nonstop. “It sounds like Sacrament meeting,” one boy quipped. And, if you live in a ward with lots of young families, you might agree.
Despite periodic reminders about reverence, and the best efforts of families to scoop up a wailing child and exit the chapel, most members hear the mewing sounds of little ones quite frequently. Sometimes they’re just vocalizing, but quite often babies are crying and Mom or Dad is hoping they’ll settle down quickly before matters escalate and they have to leave. It doesn’t take long in this “do I or don’t I” zone before heads begin to whip around and stern glances are detected. From the stand, sometimes you can see aggravated faces on those sitting nearby, and exchanged expressions of irritation.
But recently I came across something that might change the way you think about crying babies. A good friend of mine is a foster mom for infants and regularly receives crack babies, abused babies, neglected babies, the gamut. Her babies are the quietest in the room. We were chatting in the hall about it and she said, “These babies don’t cry. They’ve learned it’s no use.” I was thunderstruck. Then she explained that many of them were strapped into a car seat day and night, neglected and ignored. Others were left in their cribs, unchanged and unfed, often with misshapen heads from never being turned or picked up. And they had learned that nobody cared, nobody was coming, so why cry for help? They were all alone.
Tears sprang to my eyes as I realized the terrible damage and abuse these tiny children had endured. They had given up on loving parents, and on humanity in general. What appeared to be a series of easy, contented kids was actually a stream of tragedy- innocent babies traumatized by the very people who should have loved them. It made me want to advocate for these helpless souls, to campaign at the State Capitol to change laws and get them into the loving homes of parents who want to adopt them. It takes consistency to undo what’s been done, and a few weeks with a foster parent doesn’t solve the revolving door problem of kids returning to neglectful parents.
But it also made me see crying babies in an entirely new light. Now, whether I’m at a grocery store, a movie theatre, or in a church chapel and I hear a baby crying, I close my eyes and thank God that this is a baby who knows he’s loved-that someone will care if he’s hungry or wet or tired. He knows his cry will bring Mom or Dad. And, while it might be jarring or might keep us from hearing a speaker for a moment, it is, in fact, evidence of love. It is truly something to celebrate.
You can find Hilton’s new book, “Wishes for an LDS Child”
Joni Hilton is also “Your YouTube Mom” and shares short videos that teach easy household tips and life skills
Be sure to read her blog at jonihilton.blogspot.com.