Me and my partner are both 30 years old. People constantly tell us that our five month old son is exceptionally happy and “bright-eyed.” I don’t know enough babies to really pass my own judgment, but he certainly is easy to care for and he smiles and laughs constantly.
What troubles me is that people our age (many of them with young children of their own) almost always follow their praise of our son with comments like, “you won the lottery with him,” “he’s one in a million,” “you’re so lucky you got a baby as happy as him.” I’ve begun to see that people in my generation really believe that the disposition of children is a matter of chance.
It’s a concept I have a hard time swallowing. It often gets put into relief because older people usually tell my son, “you’re so happy because your parents give you lots of love.”
I don’t mean to brag, but I really believe that my child is happy because my partner and I are doing a good job of raising him. We both have worked with children for much of our lives (she’s a kindergarten teacher, I’m going back to school to be a social worker in the elementary schools), we’ve both been home the entire 5 months, we’re 100% committed to parenthood and our philosophies of child-rearing are virtually identical. We are both very happy people – we are trying to pass that down to our child.
I do think some factors can come into play. A certain measure of personality coming from the genes seems reasonable to me, but it’s certainly not destiny. Babies can also have physical issues that profoundly affect parents and child alike - colic comes to mind. But please, give us a little credit here. And take a little responsibility: if your child is miserable and unhappy, it probably has something to do with your parenting. Sorry if that means that some of you 30-somethings are poor parents, but that’s reality.
Is this a generational divide revealed? Is my generation really that confused about what makes children happy? Any great parents out there with miserable kids? Or is this just another nature/nurture question? What do you think?
(Probably not well-written enough for a Great Debate.)