Saturday, January 16, 2010

Is he a good baby?

I am always a bit perplexed by this question. How does one judge whether a child is inherently good or bad? What information are they after?
I, of course know what they mean is, "Does he sleep through the night?" "Does he cry a lot?", but I wonder why so many ask this. Is it that they don't know what else to ask or that all the other forms of the questions seem too personal. Maybe people truly think that a baby crying is a bad thing.

I think it implies a few things when one asks this question:

1. That not all babies are inherently good. Really, what could a 2 day old, a 2 month old, or really even a 2 year old do that would be considered bad? I choose to believe that all people are born inherently good and that it takes quite a bit to turn a good person into a bad one, primarily brain chemistry. Even those who commit acts that one would consider "bad" have reasons that lead up to these eventual actions that have very little to do with the core of the person.

2. That it is an infant's job to make life easier on its parents. Something is really backwards in this thinking. Is it overwhelming to bring a new little baby into your life, believe me I know this, and it is nice when that parent can feel like they have some answers and some help.  It is so important to have a village because all the baby can do at this point is exist and its entire purpose for months is simply to learn about trust. It should be the job of the parents to simply get to know their baby, respond to his/her needs consistently and fall in love with this new little life. Other people can take care of the house, the jobs, etc...
Too many parents get exhausted at this point by doing too much, not sleeping when the baby sleeps, and I really believe this always ends badly... and usually at the babies expense by trying to get them onto our schedule as soon as possible. Wrong!

....but probably the most disturbing underlying message a parent receives is...

3. That when a baby cries, it is a bad thing. As author Jan Hunt puts it in her book, The Natural Child:
"Crying is a signal provided by nature. It is meant to disturb the parents so that the child's need will be met. It makes no sense that nature would have provided all children with a routinely used signal that serves no good purpose."
Yet new parents who are trying to adjust to this little person who cannot talk and can only cry to get their needs met, are constantly asked about how often the baby cries or hear from other parents, "oh, he is so good, he hardly ever cries."
To me that is as absurd as saying, "oh my preschooler (teenager, best friend, etc...) is so good, they hardly ever talk to me."

I trust nature so much and when I don't have the answers, I try so hard to just see what makes sense in the world, the way nature would do it. I have learned so much about little babies lately, way more than my child development knowledge could ever have given me simply by having a baby. He teaches me. So I will continue to try my hardest to look at his fussing and his crying as much as his smiling and his laughing as his attempt to build a relationship with me and to bring me into his world. What a honor!

And please don't ask a new parent this question instead try, "what can I do for you?"


  1. Great post. I guess people are at a loss when it comes to talking to new parents. A better way to query the parent and withhold judgment would be, "How is the transition to parenting?". Than the parent can respond to their own experience (such as "It is challenging") without implicating the baby. ;)

    On another note I think it is healthy for mothers to express frustration and exhaustion. Communication is key for mama and baby!

  2. I get so annoyed by that question too and my Mother in Law asks it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!

    Both of my kids are better than good. They are wonderful. They are perfect! Maybe they weren't exactly easy on me but that does not mean they are not good or bad. Being a mom is the hardest but the best job out there.

    Great post :)