People often remark on what an amazing child Gulabo is. I respond saying she has always been chilled out, or easy. They ask if she sleeps ‘through the night,’ and I respond that she’s doing really well; she sleeps all that she can be expected to. I’m asked if she throws tantrums, and I say: she’s a happy baby, it’s easy to comfort her. And given I say it with a wide smile, and am clearly relaxed, they all agree she’s the best baby there ever was. I wholeheartedly agree with that summation!
But here’s the thing: I don’t, objectively, think she is any easier or more difficult than the average baby. What she is, is a baby. Her brain & body are constantly developing. Expecting her to actually sleep or smile through all those changes, especially when she doesn’t always have the depth to understand them, is bizarre.
She adapts as best as she can. Sometimes that means wanting to be held for hours in the middle of the night. Other times, it means celebrating with her as she figures out her legs can splash, or that a visitor appears when the doorbell rings, or whatever else. Either way, the important thing to note here is that she can’t help any of it. She’s not throwing a fit for lack of anything better to do. She’s not at her best behavior just because we have company. You really can’t hold her accountable for much just yet! She may have the vocabulary to hold her own in a conversation; she may be capable of telling you stories. But, at the end of the day, she’s just a two year old. She has the rest of her life to grow up and be ‘reasonable,’ per the adult definition of the word.
I understand people ask these questions as a way to make conversation, but I don’t want my child to be called ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for the sake of conversation. She may not internalize these words fully just yet, but I don’t see the point of having these convenient judgments repeated. At best, you’ll be able to ignore them, because they’ll change by the day. At worst, you’ll subconsciously start to believe them. Difficult babies seem to be a matter of perception. It’s easier when you acknowledge your baby probably isn’t doing anything other babies don’t.
I think people also ask you about these details because they want to sympathize with you. But it seems unfair to say that the baby’s been awake every hour, on the hour; if I’m not also able to say, “I think it’s a growth spurt,” or “She’s due for a wonder week about now.” It’s not like my preschooler has the emotional intelligence to get her point across consistently, after all. When I understand why she’s doing what she’s doing, it doesn’t make the long hours less tiring, but it does let me be the adult in the equation.
I’m not in denial here. She doesn’t cry “a lot”, however that’s defined, because I hate letting her. When that means bouncing her and walking around for four hours, I do that. She sleeps “well”, because she only wakes up when she’s hungry, and she only stays awake when she can’t figure out how to go back to sleep. Again, if that means singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ forty times in a row every two hours, I’ll do it. And I’ll still say she’s sleeping as well as can be expected, while meaning it. She’s not forming bad habits, she’s forming herself. It’s impossible to spoil someone by taking care of them when they’re confused or need reassurance.
So how do you raise an ‘easy’ baby? Simply, by being an easy parent. Don’t expect anything from the baby just yet. Sure, it’s exhausting at times, uplifting at others, and a dazed blur for the most part. But I have a happy baby, and a healthy one. Those are the only labels I’ll ever accept for her. Onwards & upwards!