I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while, but it’s a little bit difficult for me to find the right words. I think that parenting is such a personal thing, and I do not consider myself any kind of expert on the matter. I also recognize that, inevitably, how I choose to parent my child is (without a doubt) in direct conflict with how someone else chooses to raise their own child, and that anything I have to say on the matter will likely cause some sort of controversy. But, should I never express my opinions for fear of conflicting with someone else? Should I not speak out about what is important to me as a mother, and as a human being, because it might make someone else feel bad?
I mentioned recently that part of our “mission” with this blog is to show the world how we do things and that we hope it may inspire or embolden others to follow their own path, whether it be a well-worn one or one that’s never been traveled down before. I’d like to repeat that I hope we can inspire people to follow their own path, NOT our path.
So, that’s my disclaimer… I’m going to talk about parenting and how I parent my child and I realize other people raise their children in other ways, and I think that is great and awesome and I think as long as you are loving your baby and you are happy then you are doing things the “right way.”
Let’s get on with it, shall we?
People often tell us, “Wow! Margot is such a good baby!”
And… well, of course it pleases me that people think so…
But, also… it makes me a little uncomfortable whenever someone says that to us. First of all, I believe with all of my heart that there is no such thing as a bad baby… I think all babies are good babies. I do happen to think Margot is an exceptional child for many reasons, but I don’t believe she is inherently good in a way that some other babies are not. What I do think is that Margot’s easy nature is, in part, well… nature. She has been a very peaceful baby since the moment of her birth. She cried in the delivery room, but… not very much or for very long. And that has been the pattern pretty much since then. She does cry, but not very much or for very long. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever heard my child truly and desperately upset.
The part that is not nature is that Todd and I always answer her cries, or we try to get to her before she starts crying, which… I guess is nature, in a way. That is the natural human response to a crying baby, right? To make the crying stop.
I breastfeed my baby on demand, I keep her close, I let her set her own schedule (and, by extension, mine) and I always answer when she cries. This is the style of parenting that we have chosen and it is what works for us, and I believe that it is a part of what makes Margot so easy-going.
There is another part of these types of comments that makes me feel uneasy. I feel, sometimes, like I have to apologize for having a “good baby.” Or, if not apologize, then… prove somehow that she isn’t actually “good” and that she is a little “cry baby” just like all the other babies. I remember once a relative stranger commented how “good” Margot was, and when I hesitated to agree, she said, “I bet she’s a little devil at home, though.”
That made me so sad. Because, she’s not! Yes, she cries. All babies cry, it’s the only way they know how to communicate… but, her crying is not bad behavior! A crying child is NOT a bad child!
But, still, I felt like I had to agree that Margot was not always so easy-going. I felt that I couldn’t admit that Margot was a pleasant child without sounding smug.
That’s the odd thing about compliments (if I can presume that comments on Margot’s nature are meant to be complimentary). No one ever compliments you to hear you say, “Why, yes, you’re right!” Especially as a woman, if someone says, “You look great!” we often have the impulse to put ourselves down in response. I feel the same kind of impulse when someone says something positive about my child. I feel like I have to say, “Oh, well, she’s being good right now but wait ’til 5 o’clock hits! Oh boy!”
So, here is the truth. In fact, here are a few truths…
Truth: Margot cries sometimes. When she does, I usually put her to my breast. She spends a lot of time there. I am always thrown at our pediatrician appointments when they ask me how often she nurses or how long she sleeps at night, because I have NO IDEA. I don’t keep track. I get a lot of comments about how often she eats. It’s funny that people don’t seem to make the connection that her easy nature might have to do with the fact that whenever she wants to breastfeed, for nourishment or comfort, I let her, since those are the two things people comment on most often.
Truth: Margot is a good baby. She sits through meetings with Todd and me, she smiles at strangers, she spends time quietly observing the world around her. She does not scream or cry very often and almost never in public. She is happy (for a time) in other people’s arms, including people she’s just met. She is pure joy and happiness and love.
Truth: So are all the other babies.