Saturday, August 13, 2005

when good babies go bad

(been fighting with a few new entries I can't make work. in the meantime, here's this - in my opinion - only mildly satisfactory offering.)

Baby-rearing is rife with euphemisms.

For example, if someone asks you "Is he a good baby?" – this really means, "Does he sleep for long, continuous periods during the night?" If someone tells you "He is a good baby!" – this really means, "I haven’t heard him cry within my earshot in recent memory."

I am personally not in favor of parsing out the essential being of the youngest members of our society in terms of "good" and "bad". It is false and unhealthy. It is a goal of mine to avoid referring to my son as a "good boy." He will do good things and bad things, but of course he is good. He is good. Whether he cries or sleeps or slashes the neighbors’ tires. He was not born "bad". He did not arrive slathered in original sin. If I’m not mistaken, that white slippery stuff they shimmy out covered in is called vernix.

When did the shift happen? I used to be regaled with people delighted by my baby, whom they saw as cute and innocent – period. These days, hand in hand with the strangers waving and cooing at my son, adults suddenly turned into gooey, gaa-gaaing versions of their passive-aggressive selves, come the other comments. People are quite fond of repeating lines to me they think they are the first to deliver like, "Wait til he goes to junior high!" and "Wait til he gets his driver’s license!" If I’m lucky, they stop there. If I’m not, they continue their doomsday diatribe, recounting a thinly veiled version of their own offspring’s sad path toward the juvenile detention center. In the aftermath, I’m left standing, covered in drool, my own mouth slack, wondering what exactly I should do with these offerings. Should I thank these people? Should I wish them a nice day? Should I cover my babe with my body and run, fast and hard, away from them?

Toting Isaac around the grocery store the other day, I became aware of a woman speaking loudly. "I hate shopping for kids! They don’t like anything you get them!" To my dismay, I realized she was looking at me. Once she had my complete attention she continued: "You’ll see! Give it a few years! They hate everything!" Ah, my fellow parents, how I cherish their counsel. I smiled uncomfortably and moved swiftly away from her through the obstacle course of carts and displays of sandwich cookies.

Label your own damn kids if you have to, but leave mine alone. Come to think of it, leave yours alone too – they have to interact with mine. And you don’t want to mess with my kid – he’s baaaaaaaddd.


Lisa said...

Hi Kitty. I know I recommended this before, but here I go again: I think you would be into this book called "Unconditional Parenting" by Alfie Kohn. He talks about the "good/bad" thing, and a lot about the other mom in the supermarket thing. If you liked Ina May, then maybe this will work for you too. Worth a try. I'm just curious: These other people who leave comments, do you know them in person? Blogging is such a curious phenomenon.

Kitty said...

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for the book reminder - I'd forgotten about it actually. I'll look for it. Some of the commentors I know and some I've never met. It is a very interesting deal, the blog. Thanks for reading! It's nice to have an immediate audience and the comments remind me that people are out there. Every once in a while I discover another blogger who's linked mine (for example, thanks urbanearthmama) Jerry sent me your email and I think I deleted it again - doh!

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