The Myth of the “Easy” or “Difficult” Baby

My youngest kid isn’t much of a baby any longer. He’s 15 months old and letting us all know that he has opinions. For real opinions about sharing things with his sisters or not being held all of the time. He screams. He throws his body onto the floor. He tries to take a bite out of whoever is wronging him (lucky for us he still doesn’t have any teeth to speak of).

I’m starting to label him in my head. And you can imagine what the label says.

Up to now we’ve never really called him “easy” or “difficult,” but I will admit that that’s true because I actively pushed back against categorizing any of my kids in such terms. Calling young kids “laid back” or “opinionated” can make for opposite problems.

For those parents who think that their babies are “easy,” what will they think when their little one throws their first temper tantrum or refuses to adhere to parent-based sleeping scenarios? Are they swinging towards difficult since they are clearly no longer easy all the time? How else should we explain this change?

And for parents who think they have stubborn, intransigent kids, do their 2 year olds have to show wisdom and self-possession well beyond their years simply to escape from this classification? To be thought of as “normal?”

If I had such epithets following me around from childhood, I can’t imagine what I’d think of myself or what others would think of me. I know that’s not why we categorize our kids when they’re little, but truthfully, I don’t know why we do. Because kids are boring otherwise? They are magical creatures and I (usually) love spending my time with them, but we’ve all told and heard some boring kid stories. My husband gets the daily report every day at dinner time whether he wants it or not. So maybe we try to glean a little more meaning from these often slow, sometimes seemingly meaningless days. Maybe we try to look into the future and see what our “opinionated” toddler will be doing once they’re 12. I don’t know.

But I do think that putting anybody, kid or grown up, all in one personality column is nothing short of unfair to them and our ideas about them.

Focusing on the “bad” eating and the “good” sleeping and other black and white demarcations of the gray areas of life doesn’t do us any favors.

Let’s let them and us off the hook by just being ourselves. We can try to allow opposing and contrary definitions of ourselves and our kids to exist at the same time. After all, sometimes I’m patient. Sometimes I’m cruel. Sometimes I’m funny. Sometimes I’m flexible. Sometimes I’m stern. And our kids are sometimes so many things too. Let’s let them explore so that they can tell us who they think they are when they’re ready.

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