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The Best Self-Help Guide

The Best Self-Help Guide


The other night, as I walked through a local Barnes and Noble, I couldn’t believe how many books were on display claiming to have the recipe for stability, success and happiness. They claim to help you discover yourself, find the true you, reveal the beast hidden within.

Let me save you some money and time. Ten minutes with my eight-month-old daughter is really all you need.

I can’t believe I didn’t notice these things before, being that she is my fourth child, but today, as I watched her crawl around, I was utterly amazed. She has just recently started crawling, and from the moment she figured how to move herself around, she hasn’t stopped. Well, that’s not exactly true—she crawls until she reaches her goal, and then she stops. Not for long, but long enough to thoroughly research her surroundings.

From a distance I can see where she is headed and exactly what she wants. She spots the magazine lying on the floor, excitedly pushes her little bottom up in the air, and directly heads in its direction. She sees what she wants, and she goes for it.

Sometimes, though, when she gets close she discovers it is out of reach. She doesn’t cry or point or wait for someone to hand it to her. She patiently weighs her options, and then tries them all out until one works. She will crawl from different angles, try rolling on her back, inching on her stomach, and reaching as far as she can with outstretched arms. If it is physically possible for her to get it, she will figure out a way to make sure that she does.

What is most remarkable is that those times when she can’t get to what she is after, more often than not, she simply focuses on a new goal. She is too young to realize that if she cries hard enough, I will come and give it to her. She has not yet associated desire with demand. So, when she wants something that she can’t get, she looks for something else that she can.

Once she has reached her goal, she bonds completely with the treasured object. She happily grabs whatever paper, toy or shoe she has found, and then puts as much of it as she can into her mouth. It is not enough for her to see it, touch it, feel it—she must also taste it. It needs to become one with all of her senses simultaneously.

She is as excited over a plastic cup as she is with her fanciest toy. Nothing is boring and everything has potential. Because nothing is boring, she is never bored. She crawls from place to place, drool dripping from her smiling mouth as she explores her surroundings as if they are completely new. She’s on the same living-room floor to which she has been subjected for the past five hours and endless days, yet she acts as if she has never seen this room before. There is always something that she hasn’t yet found. And even if she has, today is another day and the plastic cup will still crunch when held.

As long as she is awake, she never stops moving. Never. If she is not actively crawling, she is kicking her legs, flailing her arms, shaking her head from side to side. There is no laziness, there is no sitting still.

But at a certain point, she realizes that she can’t provide for all her needs. And she is not embarrassed to make it clear that she needs help. She doesn’t pretend to be able to do what she cannot. At a certain point, if someone hasn’t figured out the problem, she will continue to cry until the answer is reached. There is no hiding or suppressing hunger, discomfort or fear. If she is crying, there is a reason.

I am convinced that there is no such thing as a baby crying for no reason. Sometimes it may be that she wants to be held. But you know what? That’s also a reason. What is wrong with wanting to be held? What is wrong with stopping and saying that we need comfort, we need love, we need to know that someone cares? If only we were as in tune with our emotions to realize that this is not a luxury, it is not being spoiled, it is a human necessity. Without human touch, we cannot thrive and grow and live.

And when she is fed, and changed and clean and loved, she is happy. She smiles. She isn’t afraid to show her appreciation. She isn’t scared to let down her guard and show that she cares. She grabs me with all her might and squeezes her tiny body against mine. She slobbers her little lips on my face and tries to eat my cheeks, expressing her love and excitement in the clearest possible way.

How I wish I could be as real, as honest, as clear as she. How I wish I could take the time to explore my surroundings and the potential of everything, regardless of how hidden. How I wish I could focus with such determination and head towards my goal, unhindered and fearless of whatever obstacle is in the way, or often the obstacle that only appears to be in the way. How I wish I would never be bored and always be moving toward something. How I wish I could ask for what I need, recognize what I don’t, and appreciate what I have. And how I wish that I could show all those I truly love and appreciate, that I do, unabashedly, without embarrassment.

My baby doesn’t know how to talk. She can’t say “thank you” or “I love you.” But she has taught me that actions speak louder than words. For when you have no walls imprisoning your heart or barriers blocking your mind, you don’t need to speak for others to understand and learn from you—you just need to be yourself.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Anonymous Worcester, MA, USA March 8, 2011

Makes me wish I were a baby When we were babies, we could kiss the person we loved or cry until we were held and loved by someone who loves us.
Wish I were a baby. Reply

rivka July 20, 2008

Wonderful ! Reply

Sarah Tsfat July 6, 2005

Babies rule! You have opened my eyes to see my 7 month old, and myself, in new ways. And I also should have learned this by now, she is after all #8. But it seems these lessons are the ones we have to keep learning over and over again to keep them internalized. Reply

Y.Weinstein & Marha Foxman Sydney; AUSTRALIA, NSW July 5, 2005

Children Hi Sara Esther,

Just read your article "The Best Self-Help Guide" and is the BEST!

When our Elisheva was a baby, my wife and I use to run to her every need, often bouncing of the walls at 2,3,4am etc. She never got the oportunity to cry. Many people said that that " is wrong..." and "...wait till she grows up, she will be spoiled...." etc. etc.

We are pleased to report that we kept running and loving and singing, often in the middle of the night. Elisheve is now alomost 9 and still a perfect child. Still always laughing, thank G-d.

We think that the sacrifices of a little sleep etc. and unrestricted love and kindness shown to a baby is the best investment for peace and happiness in the future. The kindness is now reciprecating ( there such a word?....u know what I mean) Reply

Anonymous July 3, 2005

R' Zushe of Anipoli said you can learn three things from a baby (as well as 7 things you can learn from a thief!):

1) always be busy

2) when you need something, cry out for it

3) when your needs are satisfied, be happy


Sarah Foxman July 3, 2005

I don't even know your little girl, but I love her already. Great writing. Keep up the good work.

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