When I had my first baby over 15 years ago, I discovered that I was a great mommy. Oh, yes, I was a natural. I could tell right off the bat that all those notions I had before I became a mother were going to hold true for me: my child would be well-behaved, would never be one of those brats who threw tantrums, would happily eat whatever I served him without complaint, etc., etc., etc. It was a dream come true – and proof that all it took was good mothering to produce a good child. How did I know this? Because Kevin, my first baby, was a dream. Seriously. He slept through the night at six weeks old, and in fact, he would sleep anywhere, and through anything. I would vacuum in his room – right up to the crib! – while he slept. No wussy babies for me, by god! By subjecting him to as much noise as possible while he slept, I would ensure that he wouldn’t be all sensitive to noise and stuff. He was an easy-going, happy baby, and even when he got upset, he was easy to soothe. And it was all to my credit, thank you very much. Obviously, I was doing this parenting thing the right way. I should have half a dozen more babies!
Five years later, Joey came along. He emerged into the world screaming, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t stop for a year, at least. I did all the same things with him that I had done with Kevin, employing all my Good Mommy methods. Didn’t work. Joey cried all the time (or at least it seemed like it; pictures of his first year tell a different story – there are actually photos of a smiling baby! – but I mostly remember the incessant wailing emitting from him over that first year). He wanted to be held all the time. He would only sleep (a) in bed with us, or (b) in his swing. I remember moments of utter panic when the batteries for his swing would die and we realized we didn’t have any spares on hand. Oh! I remember feeling like a prisoner in the rocking chair with him, nursing him to sleep, and then ever-so-carefully getting up and gently laying his sweet, sleeping self down, only to have him start screaming the second I let go of him – and this process would repeat itself for hours on end (I’m sorry, but I can’t let an infant cry it out).
A baby like that? It humbles a person.
It was quite a rude awakening, having Joey. But maybe a necessary step in helping me to see reality: babies come with all sorts of pre-wired temperaments, and you never know what you’re going to get. My “good” mothering with Kevin was all an illusion – a complete snow job.
It would probably be more fair to have a difficult baby first – it toughens you up for the next one, and if the next one turns out to be easy, it’s icing, and you’ve earned it, dammit.
Scarlett reminds me very much of Joey as an infant. Crabby. Difficult. Utterly demanding. Oh, sure, she’s a beaut, and she can turn on the charm with that adorable lopsided baby grin, but it hides a darker, diabolical side. The side of her that wants to take over the household and hold her mommy hostage. Oh, I’m onto her, you can bet that.
(I have no idea what I’m going to do about it, except go along with it, I guess . . .)
Not so smug anymore, me.