My son is going through a growth spurt this week. He hasn't had a major one since maybe 2 1/2 months, and he's over 4 months now, so I'd let myself forget how tough it is on all of us. For Edwin, it means having trouble staying asleep, because he's wakened by both growing pains and hunger pains; for me, the corresponding lack of sleep and the physical struggle of feeding him much more often, of my body needing to work that much harder to produce milk, and feeling like he's draining me of my life-force. It's tough on my husband too, as lack of sleep takes an emotional toll on me even greater than the physical toll, and I become very difficult to live with. I can't wait until Edwin's done "spurting" and we can settle down into semi-normalcy again.
Growing pains are an odd thing. I used to think they were a figure of speech, a way to classify the emotional struggles kids go through as they grow. But I know firsthand now that I was wrong: growing pains are actual pain. I can see it in the way my son flails his arms suddenly in his sleep, jolting hard and waking himself up crying. I can feel how tense his little body gets when he's trying to sleep, as if bracing himself for more pains. So growing pains are a physical thing. But are they emotional as well?
As adults, our bodies are done growing, our skeletons have reached their correct size, and we have all the brain cells and organs we need to finish our lives. The pain of growing, even the memory of the pain, has left us. But do we still experience emotional growing pains? Don't we all encounter situations that remind us that our lives are changing, and don't we all react weirdly to those situations sometimes? The biggest, or at least the most hyped example of this would be a mid-life crisis. You suddenly realize you're growing old, and the emotional pain makes you buy a sports car. (Which may also be a painful situation for your spouse.)
I haven't been through a mid-life crisis, but I know that emotional pain, brought on by life changes, has an effect on my life. On a small scale, when I'm particularly stressed at work, I tend to start misplacing things, something I don't ordinarily do. Once I was convinced that someone had stolen my purse at work, and I went all the way back home only to find it hanging neatly over my desk chair. On a larger scale, a few years ago, within the span of seven months, my grandmother and two of my husband's grandparents died, my husband and I got married, and we bought a house. It was a time of extreme stress, even though some of it, like the marriage and parts of the house-buying, was positive. My growing pains during that time had a big effect on me. I had a really hard time maintaining any sort of normal schedule beyond going to work, and besides watching a lot of TV, I spent a lot of time baking, which has always soothed me. (It's something about how formulaic baking is. You put in the right ingredients in the right amounts, bake for the right amount of time, and bingo, the desired result occurs. Or maybe it has nothing to do with that at all, and I just like eating cookie dough.) It took me a really long time to emotionally move past the growing pains of consecutive deaths, buying and moving to a new home, and becoming a wife with a new last name.
So maybe I should be grateful that for now, at least, Edwin's pains are physical, not emotional. At least I know they can be fixed with a lot of cuddling and a good long nap.
It's a lot cheaper than a sports car.