Still don't see it? Look at the upper right hand corner for the big hairy gorilla that 83% of radiologists missed.
When I first heard about this phenomenon on NPR, I couldn't help but drop everything I thought I knew about navigating parenthood. I listened in awe as the reporter described what he referred to as inattentional blindness.
"...when you ask someone to perform a challenging task, without realizing it, their attention narrows and blocks out other things. So, often, they literally can't see even a huge, hairy gorilla that appears directly in front of them."Parenting Through Inattentional Blindness
Whereas radiologists might be focused on cancer nodules, when something big hits our parent-child relationship, as parents our focus often narrows to "What am I doing wrong?" I know this internal dialogue well. What am I eating that's making my newborn colicky? What am I doing to make my kid hit? What did I do to make my toddler unable to sleep through the night?
From my experience, this approach rarely leads to "figuring it out." Take, for example, mother-infant bonding during the newborn phase. No matter how helpful the 5 Ss are, you can't just whip out The Happiest Baby on the Block and work mama magic on a colicky newborn. Mom and baby have to work at getting acquainted.
The Power of Observation
For me, the ability to work my mommy magic didn't happen until Cam reached 8 or 10 months. It came from countless hours of presence and observation--even lying sideways on the floor of my office when I discovered that was the only way he would nurse without crying. It also came from Cam recognizing that I was the source of his nourishment quite literally. (For the first few months, he tried to nurse his dad and multiple grandmothers.)
We know the power of observation from experienced moms confessing that every baby is different. I calmed Cam during the colicky newborn days by putting him in the Moby Wrap and riding my spinning bike to Konichiwa B*#!%es. My cousin calms her one-year-old by driving him around in the middle of the night. My colleague had to buy all new baby stuff for her second baby because he was completely different from her first.
Mommy magic does not automatically translate from one child to the next. It's built from the ground up with the watchful efforts of each unique combo of mom and baby.
Finding Your Big Hairy Gorilla
I confess, I'm still looking for the solution to my son's inability to sleep by himself and his occasional, yet diminishing episodes of inappropriate hitting. Try as I might, I cannot find that big hairy gorilla, and I don't think I'll find her anytime soon. I'll probably find her about a year from now when (fingers crossed) Cam is sleeping peacefully through the night in his own bed. I observed my way through 8 weeks of tortorous colic before discovering my son's obvious sensitivity to dairy as a newborn, and I expect that's how many more challenges in my parenting journey will play out.
In the thick of most challenges, I think the key is to take a step back and relax your effort. Accept and observe the hair off that invisible gorilla. By all means, look for logical solutions to whatever is ailing you and your child, but avoid rigid, extreme corrections that leave you both feeling exhausted, helpless, and no closer to finding that gorilla.
What do you think? Does this post ring true with your parenting experiences? I'd love to hear your thoughts.