"Awwww, look at your sweet little angel. She looks so perfect. Is she is a good baby?"
A what? A good baby? Do they make bad ones? If so, is there a receipt so you can return them or, at least, exchange them for one of these "good babies?"
Ah. The question every parent of a new little babe hears at least once a day. I heard it all the time when my son was a wee one years ago. Now that I have a 7 week old newbie I'm getting that same question all. Is she a good baby?
A good baby?
I can be quite bitchy and I want to say, "No, she's awful. She cries in her car seat when I'm trying to listen to Preston and Steve on the radio. She always wants to nurse the minute I walk into Kohl's. She insists on having one of those giant blow-out poops that leaks through her clothes and onto me while I'm browsing the kitchen aisles at Target. She squiggles too much when I'm trying to snap the 32 buttons on her sleeper. And then she smiles at me. Yeah, you know the kind of smile. All bright eyes and toothless gums. The kind that makes your heart melt so you forget just what an evil little creature they are. I'm pretty sure she's aiming to steal my car soon. She's that bad."
I haven't said that. I've actually reigned in the snark ever-so-slightly. Most of the time, I give them my one raised eyebrow and ask, "what is a good baby?"
"Oh, you know. Does she sleep good for you at night?"
Puh-lease. She's a baby. They are biologically designed to wake frequently. It's sort of a survival thing. Evolution and all that (or God's perfect Creation, depending on your beliefs). This idea that our babies need to be comatose for 10 straight hours each night is absurd. Ridiculous. We spend 9 months in joyful anticipation of these little bundles, but the moment they pop out we say, "Oh darling, we love you and you are so cute, but you need to shush and get at least 8 hours. If you don't, we'll have to train you." There is a whole "baby training" industry that profits from this, mainly American, idea that brand new humans must adhere to our modern schedules. We're told that they are terrible little beings who are hell bent on manipulating us the moment the cord is cut. No, they don't want love, a warm breast and the security of gentle arms cuddling them. That's absurd! They want to control us! They want to interfere with our Farmville games and the latest episode of American Idol (is that even popular anymore? I wouldn't know as my tube time is dedicated to Curious George and The Magic School Bus). Babies have no clue how hard it can be to be an adult. They're really quite rude, actually.
Look, I know there are tough times when you have a newborn. We've all been there. I'm certainly guilty of banging my head against the steering wheel (while parked) when she starts screaming in her car seat. I've deep-sighed plenty of times when she insists on nursing right now when all I want to do curl up with a book and a cup of coffee and not be touched for 5 minutes. The other day I changed her several times in the course of 30 minutes because she had blow-out poop that leaked onto my clothes, then she pooped again right after her new diaper went on. Then she peed while I was changing her and got it all over her clothes, her hair and my sheets. I looked up at the small statue of the Virgin Mary holding a wee Jesus and asked, "Is this a joke? Did He ever do this?" Then I looked down at her and she gave my the biggest toothless smile and a little squeal. Heart. Melt. I remembered back to the times my son did the same thing. The times when I thought I'd never make it through this baby thing. Those days seemed like yesterday. He's 5 now. I was reminded that these newbie days, even the challenging ones, go by so quickly. Even though I contemplate selling myself to a circus, I know that this, too, shall pass and I'll look at my 5 year-old daughter and wonder where the time went.
The other popular litmus test for a "good baby" is whether they cry a lot. I'm sorry, but what the fudge, yo? Babies are supposed to cry. They don't talk like adults. They can't. They are, once again, biologically designed to do this. Crying is communication. Despite what some "experts" say, babies do not cry to manipulate you. They did not come here to control your life. They cry because they have needs - boob, diaper, bottle, sleep, stimulation (too little, too much) or they just want someone to pick them up, hold them and let them cry for a moment. I do it. Sometimes I just want to cry. It feels good to let go of some pent up emotion. And if someone was standing there while I cried and just ignored me....well, they'd be the ones crying next. Know what I mean? Seriously - I would be hurt if I was crying and in need of comfort and those around me just ignored me. It would lead to all sorts of negative emotions surrounding those people and myself. I wouldn't let a friend - or even a stranger - cry without asking what's up and trying to console him or her. Why would I do that to a baby who only has cries as their method of communication? Yes, good babies cry. They should cry. Some cry more than others. Sometimes it's annoying. It doesn't make them bad. It doesn't make them manipulative (something which their sweet brains aren't truly capable of at that age). Because of this ridiculous belief that good babies don't cry, we have thousands of infants being left alone in their cribs, ignored while they cry...to the point of dehydration. Babies have actually died because of some of these "training" methods. I'm not just saying that because baby training isn't my thing. It's the plain old truth. Here is a website explaining how it's dangerous. And another.
As a culture, we have become so obsessed with all of our advancements and our technology that we forget that we are, in fact, humans. Despite thousands of years of achievements, we still have basic and primal instincts the influence us. Babies are not born knowing the year. They don't know that we have electric cars, iPads, Kindles and the potential for 15 minutes of fame via reality shows. Their knowledge and needs are primal - food, warmth, security. And they cry to get it. Babies cry. Crying, too much or too little, is not the mark of a good baby. Unless they literally try to shank you in your sleep, all babies are good babies.