Babies are difficult. Not because they mean to be or they enjoy stressing out their parents, but because as little mini-humans their means of communicating with us is very limited. The only way they know to show how they’re feeling? Crying. Or a giggle or smile if you’re lucky.
I’ve been fortunate that I have a generally happy, easy-going little guy. He’s never really been a crier. Sure if he’s hungry, tired, or has a dirty diaper, there will be fussiness. Or if he’s in pain (shots, or if he bumps his head). But for the most part, my little guy sort of goes with the flow.
This is NOT the experience for everyone, I know. And you can usually spot these poor parents who have suffered through colicky, easy-to-cry, difficult-to-soothe, “high maintenance” babies when you’re out with your own little one. Typically I run into these tired, overwhelmed, “glad that’s over” parents when I’m out at the store with my son.
The typical reaction I get when we’re out shopping is “oh how cute/what a good boy/he’s so sweet!” From the mama’s whose little ones are two and three I hear “enjoy these days, they grow up so fast!” From the parents of middle and high-schoolers I hear “I remember when you were that little.” From the proud grandparents it’s usually “what a happy fella, he looks a little younger/older than my grandson/granddaughter.”
But from the parents whose children were perhaps not as easy, not as calm, not as chill as my dear son, the tune is so very much different…
“You’re brave for bringing him out alone.”
“He doesn’t cry much? JUST WAIT”
“I wish my son/daughter was this well behaved when he/she was this little.”
“Wait until he’s older, he’ll be tearing up everything in your house. That’s what little boys do, they destroy things.” (my personal favorite to date)
These poor parents probably had a rough experience with their little ones, and unfortunately it’s colored the way they interact with other babies and parents they come in contact with. It’s always a bit sad when I run into one of these Mamas whose baby-days were so difficult. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a baby that won’t stop screaming, doesn’t ever sleep, spits up all the time, and generally turns entire worlds upside down in the hardest of ways.
At first I would be annoyed when I would get these negative-toned comments towards my son and our future. I mean really, way to be a Debbie Downer and rain on my Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade! To tell me it’s just going to get worse/harder from this point forward feels like they’re tearing down my experience to feel better about their own. Why steal the joy/happiness from one new mom because your experience wasn’t that great?
It really used to bother me, these doom and gloom Mamas walking around, spreading their message of misfortune to other parents out there.
Parenthood is hard. HARD. Regardless of the baby. But it’s so much more difficult when the baby has a tough time adjusting too. So instead of feeling irritated by these parents, my heart has just started to feel sympathy for them. Every new Mom & Dad wants to bask in the glow of their newborn baby, and I’m sure there’s nothing more difficult than wading through the long, dark midnight hours with a fussy, crying, unhappy infant when you haven’t showered or slept in four days. They remember those difficult days much more clearly than the few good days sprinkled within that first year of hardship.
This makes me sad for them, and I make sure to say a little prayer for each one of the frazzled, fizzed-out, frantic Mamas when I meet them. Because although it gets easier with time, it will always be hard to look back on those first few months and remember the difficult days and miss the sweet bonding memories of a cooing, giggling, smiling newborn.
We each have our own journeys in life, and certain stretches are easier for some than others. If you find yourself face to face with one of these worn down, wish-it-were-easier Mamas: smile, listen, and ask God to give their hearts some peace and their bodies (and babies) some much-needed rest. And be thankful for your own sweet one.
Even on the toughest days, they are such a blessing.