Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A good baby

I have been back at work for a month and a half now and while it's been good, it's also been challenging.  I am both working full time and caring for Ruth full time and it's been difficult.  By most accounts, Ruth is a great baby.  She is happy, sleeps well, eats well, and is healthy.  Her only "struggle" (and I'm not even sure that's the appropriate word) is that she can be particular about how she is held or who she is with.  Our phrase around here is "she makes you work for it." She sleeps well, but if she is overtired she will fight sleep, and will make you "work for it" to get her to sleep. Or, often, when being held, she doesn't want to simply be cuddled, she wants to be walked, and bounced and to have you stand her up and face her out so she can see everything around her.  This isn't as much a challenge for her as it is for those who want to hold her.  

She likes people and wants to watch people and will refuse to sleep if there are things to do and people to watch.  But there seems to be this crazy expectation from people that she will just pass from person to person and cuddle with whomever wants a "baby fix". And that's simply not the case.  I don't mind it because I don't think it's a flaw. I think she's just young and getting used to the world and all the people around her.  But it is sometimes difficult when I can't just hand her off to someone and have them hold her so I can do something.  Or, lots of folks, who think she should just be happy to cuddle, get hurt or frustrated when she starts to cry when they hold her.  It's hard to balance (and sometimes battle) the expectations of others. Especially since folks have this other idea that "church babies" are the most social of all.  

I don't like to disappoint people, and I feel like Ruth is an extension of me, and I don't want others to be disappointed by her (I said it that way intentionally, not that she is directly disappointing them, but that they are disappointed because their expectations aren't met).  But the reality is she's her own person and she does things her way and there's no wrong or right way about her way (not yet anyway...she's only 3 1/2 months old). 

I've come to somewhat loathe the notions of a "good baby" that people hold.  A good baby is one who is quiet, doesn't fuss, hardly cries, sleeps, eats, and is happy with anyone and everyone.  I know that logically people can't honestly believe that that's how babies are...babies cry--it's how they communicate, and not crying is not really a good thing, it's generally a sign that something big is wrong.  If you are honest about it, babies are babies and they are a lot of work (and a tremendous blessing) and they have their own personality, and they cry, and they fuss (even if they don't know why), and they sleep and they eat and they are changing so regularly that they aren't terribly predictable (other than needing to sleep and eat and be loved on).  Quite honestly, I think Ruth is perfect.  Not in the cultural sense of perfect--she's not flawless and she certainly doesn't make life "easy" for me. But she is a wonderful joy.  Just her smile can make all kinds of worries and frustrations melt away.  Even when she is terribly upset and almost inconsolable, she's perfectly wonderful.  It's not her fault I can't figure out what to do.  And once she does get fed and get some sleep (that's normally the best answer to anything!), she's happy as a clam and all smiles once again, as if the injustice and hardship of being overtired or overstimulated never even happened.  

She's wonderful and I wish people could simply see that without having a need to evaluate every fuss, every cry, every giggle for whether or not she is "good". She is good because God created her in God's image. She is perfectly and wonderfully made and there's no two ways about it.