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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