My Lydia is the happiest, easiest baby to care for.
I take her to restaurants, where she plays contentedly with packs of crackers and munches on whatever I pass to her. I take her to the grocery store where she smiles at the other patrons and chews on my keychain. I take her to friends’ houses where she crawls around quietly on the floor and babbles to herself.
(There are exceptions, of course, like when she’s not feeling well. So if you’re a friend of mine and thinking, “Um, she complained quite a bit at my house!” she was probably having an off day).
I often get comments: “What a good baby!”
While I’m pleased that other people enjoy her company, these comments always trouble me.
When she was three months old, I took Lydia to the library in my Moby wrap. The lady behind the desk who scanned my books smiled at Lydia and asked her age. When I told her, she followed up with the (all-too-common) question, “Is she a good baby?”
“I’m not sure: she hasn’t really had time to develop a moral character,” I replied.
Okay, I didn’t actually say that.
What I really said was, “Oh yes – she’s wonderful.” (Because it’s true. But I thought the other response. That counts for something, right?).
What a question!
What I wished I could express to that lady was that Lydia couldn’t possibly be a bad baby. ALL babies are good, no matter their temperament. How can they not be? Or at the very least, they’re born morally neutral, with the capacity to develop into people who do good and/or evil.
But there are no bad babies. Only hurting or needy or sensitive or unhappy babies. What a terrible thing, to call unhappy babies bad and happy babies good!
Ben and I were very blessed with a healthy, easy-going, smiley baby. It makes our lives as parents so much easier than if she was anxious or in chronic pain. But she wouldn’t be a worse baby if she was either of these things.
And if we’re blessed with more children, we might get one who suffers from colic, or who is painfully shy or sensitive or a poor sleeper. But that won’t mean the child is any worse than Lydia — just more needful of our energy, attention and creativity.
That’s why I want to call for a moratorium on calling happy babies “good.” While it’s a nice compliment, the implication is dark: that unhappy babies are bad. And that’s just completely unfair and untrue.