So, I’ll admit it. When my husband and I show up at the Child Watch at our YMCA and the child care providers refer to our daughter as “the good baby,” I can’t help but flush with pride despite the fact that I’m almost positive we had absolutely nothing to do with her temperament. Unless you count all of the chocolate glazed doughnuts I ate while she was in utero.
Anytime anyone uses the word “good” to describe Miss E, I am reminded of something Sallie Westheimer, the president of 4C, said to me: that there are no good or bad babies, just easy babies and challenging babies. Which is why my husband and I should wait until Miss E has a part-time job to have another, because there’s just no way her little brother or sister could be as easygoing as she is. She sleeps (mostly) well. She plays by herself. She’ll idle contentedly in her bouncy seat while I take a shower and shave my legs. Trust me, I do not take a minute of this for granted.
And Sallie’s right, of course. There’s a lot of baggage that comes with being dubbed “good” or “bad.” Neither babies nor kids should have to contend with it. Are there good and bad behaviors? Absolutely. But a child who acts out because her needs aren’t being met, a baby who cries and cries because the world is big and strange and he just needs time to figure it out? They’re not bad. And neither are the parents who are exhausted and unsure of how to quiet them.
So what do I do when people ask me if Miss E is a “good” baby? I say she’s patient. She’s even-tempered. And she’s probably just biding her time, because once she can voice opinions of her own (in a language we can all understand), I’m sure she’ll be as stubborn and frustratingly rational as her father. In public. At the top of her lungs.
And then what will people say?