“Is She a Good Baby?”
I’m always a little caught off guard when people ask me this.
Is she a good baby? Sure she’s a good baby, she’s mine and I love her. Oh, you mean, is she a quiet, complacent baby that doesn’t cry, sleeps 21 hours a day, and is content to go wherever I want to take her? Ah, I see what you are asking now.
It’s funny, what we have decided is a “good baby” and a “challenging baby.” Typically, the good baby sleeps most of the day, wakes slowly, smiles quickly, and doesn’t complain when she is fed, held, put down, taken on trips, dressed, or changed. Complacent and quiet. The challenging baby is active, insistent, persnickety, loud, and awake most of the day.
When these two babies become adults, what will they look like? A sleepy, smiling, complacent adolescent doesn’t sound too bad… until you try and get them out of bed to take the SATs one morning. Or until they’re in their first professional meeting, content to let their (yep, you guessed it) challenging, active, insistent co-worker run the show, impress the boss, and invent the next Instagram.
Of course, she’s a good baby. She’s mine.
It’s a little bit of a bait and switch we perform on kids. The ingrained personality traits we’ve insisted are good in babies aren’t always good in older children. The good baby may become the lazy teenager… the challenging toddler, the next CEO. I wonder why we bother to label them anyway, if we just switch around what is good in a few years?
What is even more perplexing is when you admit to your baby having a good trait out loud, especially if they are exceptionally outside the norm. “Oh, the baby sleeps 8 hours through the night? And you aren’t feeding her until 6 am?” The smile fades and is slowly replaced by a look of reproach. “Well, don’t expect it to last, as soon as she starts teething she’ll wake up ten times a night. Oh, and it seems a little early to wean from a night feed, come to think of it, your baby looks fairly thin, you probably should start waking her up to eat…”
And when you admit to having the challenging traits: “Oh, she fusses in the evenings? You wear her in a sling a few hours per day to help her relax? Sounds like you are forming a bad habit, you better stop before you spoil her…”
You just can’t win. Good baby? It won’t last, and you’re doing it wrong. Challenging baby? It’s just the luck of the draw. And also, you’re doing it wrong.
I found myself breathing a sigh of relief last week when my daughter rolled over and started to reach for a toy earlier than I expected. You see, I’m one of the persistent, persnickety, active types – and my daughter? Well, she takes after her dad, who enjoys a long afternoon nap before turning in for the night. From my first days home from the hospital, I got a little antsy and started scheduling activity after activity with her. It took me almost a month of bringing baby home only for her to fall into an exhausted sleep to realize that my need for external stimulation might be a little on the extreme side – and baby was a tad more moderate.
Some of these traits will change as she ages, and some will not. It’s just who she is, and her particular mix of God-given personality traits are some days good, some days challenging, and some days neither. Now, when people stop me in the grocery store to ask: is she a good baby? I look them in the eye and say enthusiastically “yes!” regardless of whether she’s sleeping in her carseat or hollering madly at the frozen peas. Because she is. She’s mine, and I love her.