Sunday, March 30, 2008

cranky calls

My in-laws love to regale people with stories of what a "difficult" and "cranky" baby Mr. December was. Of course, no story is complete without a comparison to Mr. December's brother, who was an "easy baby".

(As an aside, may I point out that Mr. December's brother was passive as a baby and he's passive now, which may explain why he's 32 and single, in a mediocre job, with a VISA card that is payed by his father every month? In the meantime Mr. December, the demanding baby, has a great job, a home, a wife, a baby, and a published book. Passive doesn't necessarily translate well beyond babyhood. But I digress.)

Anytime Kali cries, fusses, or deviates from smiley happy-baby behaviour, my inlaws are quick to point out that a) she's a cranky baby and b) she resembles Mr. December in temperament. Do I need to tell you how much this annoys me? Perhaps not, but I should tell you why.

Kali does not cry without a reason. Boredom, exhaustion, overstimulation - those are all good reasons to cry when crying is your only mode of communication. But why bother learning the baby's cues for naptime when you can just label her "cranky", bounce her and yammer on in babytalk in an attempt to cheer her up, and talk about how her uncle was such a "good baby"? And there's certainly no reason to think that two books, twenty minutes with the gymini, five choruses of "the wheels on the bus", and some tummy time would require a lot of energy and concentration for such a small person. No, she's just "cranky". Oh, is it 9:00 at night? Kali's so cranky for crying all the time! It's not at all possible that she's tired because it's two hours past bedtime and her grandparents have only just served dessert. Duh.

Yes, much of this is about me not wanting my daughter to grow up with the label of "cranky" when she should really be aware that she is energetic, inquisitive, alert, and charismatic. But it's about more. It's about Mr. December.

A big part of me wonders how he might be different if he hadn't grown up being told that he was a difficult, antisocial, grumpy person. His parents may mean it affectionately, but those are all negative attributes.

I also wonder how different it might have been if his parents had ever stopped to consider putting him down for naps earlier, letting him have some quiet time to himself, and developing other adaptive strategies.

And I hurt for the fact that his parents saw him as difficult, like a smoke alarm that trips at the tiniest whiff of steam, instead of like a rechargable battery, which needs only to be put in its familiar dock for a while to recharge before once again powering everyone's enjoyment and lighting up the world.


Caro said...

Oh the labels that parents put on us. Don't even start me on my in-laws...

Rachel Inbar said...

Just 4 words for you.

Dagny said...


I agree.



Aurelia said...

I agree about this. I talk about how different my kids are but I make sure to mention their good attributes heavily, and that if they were problematic as babies, it was because we the parents were stupid, and had no idea what we were doing.

Seriously, 2 hours after her bedtime? I'd walk out. You, my dear, are a saint.

Rachel said...

In-laws can be such a pain at times! Mine only show up at bedtime and then are disappointed they don't get to see LG much.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if maybe Mr. D has done so well because of his parents putting him down. If his parents saw him as difficult, perhaps he strived harder. Just a thought. . .