Of “Good” Babies and “Bad” Babies

BabyGreenT“Is she a good baby?” people often ask.

This afternoon my friend fastened the chin strap of Leone’s bicycle helmet. Though Leone fidgeted and tried to push the helmet off, she didn’t cry.

“You’re such a good baby!” my friend cooed.

Leone is amenable to change, good-natured, smiley, patient, and generally even-tempered.

For the most part, she’s been an easy baby. Still, I don’t like to think of any of her baby personality traits as “good.”

Here’s why: If being amenable to change, good-natured, smiley, and generally even-tempered means you’re a “good” baby, where does that leave babies who aren’t so easygoing?

Athena, my second born, hated being a baby.

For the first nine months of her life she nursed, slept, or … fussed.


Big Sister Athena carries Baby Sister Leone

Big Sister Athena (9 years old) carries Baby Sister Leone (9 months old)

Unless you were walking with Athena on your back outside, preferably up a steep mountain. Then she was happy. But the minute you stepped over the threshold and into the house, Athena woke from deepest sleep and complained.

“Jennifer,” I remember a friend at our baby group saying once, “I’ve never seen the baby do anything but cry or nurse.”

His second born, meanwhile, happily (and silently) observed the world.

But Athena wasn’t a “bad” baby. She was just uncomfortable being a baby. Or maybe she had a tummy ache. Or maybe her older sister, just 19 months her senior, secretly squeezed her too hard when we weren’t looking. Or maybe, since we were going through a hard time after she was born, she was sensitive to the people around her and our stress levels were responsible for her “colic.” Or maybe we just thought she cried a lot because we had our hands full with a baby and a regressing toddler.

Since she didn’t talk then, it’s hard to know exactly why Athena was a little cry-y when she was a baby.

What I do know is that she wasn’t a “bad” baby. She was just as “good” a baby as any other baby. But not as easy.

All five of us feel very lucky to have such a good-natured creature in our lives who has been enjoying her babyhood. But I’ve been parenting long enough to realize that how she’ll feel about being a toddler is anyone’s guess.

“Leone,” I heard Hesperus say to her the other day. “When you learn to walk I hope you’ll be nice and easy, just like Athena was. Not difficult and willful like me and Etani. Okay?”

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8 thoughts on “Of “Good” Babies and “Bad” Babies”

  1. Yeah–maybe we should think in terms of easy and hard? My daughter was a hard baby and hard toddler, but now she’s an easy kid. But she was lovable and precious and wonderful when she was hard and when she was easy.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..What

  2. I agree! My son was a difficult infant, but a delightful toddler and child. My daughter was easy going as a baby, and now she is a strong-willed, opinionated two-year-old!
    .-= Heather´s last blog ..Gorgeous Birth Photos! =-.

  3. I loved your daughter’s comment at the end of this post!

    In my experience, placement in a family has something to do with it, too. All my babies were “good.” I was lucky from that point of view. But noticing the babies of others, often second and third children were much easier than firstborn, perhaps because the parents were still learning the ropes?
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..Finding Inspiration at Dyer Pond =-.

  4. I didn’t like the characterization of babies as good or bad either. Neither of mine liked being babies and my mom always said that about them. They were so frustrated that they could not communicate and move like they wanted to.

  5. Perhaps is a cultural thing?

    When I first came to USA I notice how easy was for some people to classified children like that (good or bad) at any age really….than they would turn to their dog and say the same thing: “good girl..good boy”…maybe is just me.

    I always tell the children in my class Their is not such a thing as a “good children or bad children” Children are full of goodness..they just..sometimes have a hard time cooperating with what adults need them to do.

    I wonder where that whole thing begun?

  6. I know what you mean. I’ve had “good” babies (as in, the cultural expectation of good…quiet, smiley, etc) and “bad” babies (fussy, wiggly), but I never thought of them as “good” or “bad”. I think what people mean is “easy”…and some babies are definitely easier than others. But I’ve noticed my easiest babies are my hardest toddlers! So it seems you never really get away from going through more difficult phases with kids. Does it make them “good” sometimes and “bad” the rest? No, it just makes them human 🙂 But I also believe there are very few truly bad grown-ups, either…just a lot of us who make mistakes, some bigger than others.
    .-= Meagan Francis´s last blog ..Feeling the fear of ticks and parenting anyway =-.

  7. The very concept that a person, and a baby no less, can be bad or good is sort of odd. I think we just ARE, and we can make choices of greater or lesser merit, or that make other people’s lives easier or harder. But our essence? I’ve never really thought that there is underlying good or bad. We’re all worthy of respect, and we all have the capability to do tremendous things and horrible things. But that doesn’t define us. And especially not in someone who is entirely too young to make conscious decisions about their actions.
    .-= Amber´s last blog ..The Creativity Habit =-.

  8. If you are busy judging what is bad and what is good, you can’t see what actually is.

    (That’s a Cheri Huber saying – although I can’t remember the exact words…)

    Whether it’s children, neighbors, food, co-workers, you name it.

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