We didn't GET a happy baby. It's not the lottery!

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.)

I don’t know. I think my parents did an OK job raising me, and I’m an utterly hopeless pessimist. Sometimes you just get an infant who’s set on negating your parenting skills. But I think I’m just cynnical :slight_smile:

<i>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.</i>

I am a 30something parent, who has years of experience teaching and sometimes my child is miserable. Kids are like that. They don’t have the tools as babies to express their anger, frustration, pain, etc. so they cry. How does that make them miserable?

I think part of it is their natural personality and how it expresses itself, and of course, the other part is parenting influences.

I wouldn’t be too quick to judge, lest you have another child who is not so happy, and you are on the receiving end of a comment like the one above.

My two nieces were raised by the same parents, same sets of expectations, etc, and one was ‘happy’ as a baby and one is ‘miserable’ as a baby. Though, the point is, she wasn’t miserable, she was just being a baby. If she was tired, hungry, cranky, teething, she cried. That’s normal baby behaviour.

People may also be commenting on what they see as your baby’s disposition. Your kid may have a cheerful one. It’s possible for a kid to be equally as content and well cared for, but put energy into expressing herself differently.

I’m a cheerful person–it’s difficult for me not to be in a good mood most of the time. My brothers, OTOH, who grew up at the same time and with the same parents, have completely different personalities and dispositions. One is cynical and prone to grumpiness, one is dreamy and absent-minded, and one is sarcastic but happy. We have been completely different since infancy. People are just like that.

>> if your child is miserable and unhappy, it probably has something to do with your parenting.

Yeah, let’s cart those parents with crying babies off to jail and accuse them of child neglect or something. The added benefit is I don’t have to hear the baby screaming.

I used to wonder about this too, because our baby was fairly easy and I wanted to take credit for that in our dedication to him. But as I’ve gotten to know more babies, I think that plays only a small part.

One thing that made our baby more easygoing is that he was a watcher. He liked to look at things. His little friend Glen was always a “do-er” He learned to walk almost 8 months earlier than our son, and has always, always been quick to do things that were physical. I’m convinced some of Glen’s misery as a baby was just that he was confined and frustrated by his own bodily limitations. Our happy little slug, however, didn’t mind a bit.

with the exception of people who seriously mistreat an infant, any particular babies disposition, is exactly that ‘that particular babies disposition’.

my son was what Cranky referred to as ‘a do-er’. He was far too interested in absolutley everything to quietly wait while he was fed, changed, bathed, washed, dressed, undressed, put in a seat, whatever.

He was pushing himself up and lifting his head before we left the hospital. He was rolling over w/in a month. he was crawling by 5 months, walking by 9. He fussed when we changed his diapers (often took two of us), napped only under extreme protest.

was not a mellow young’un. smiled, yes, laughed etc. but never, never would I have called him ‘easy’. (still don’t).

Our best friends who had a child 4 weeks after Ben, loved thier son just as much as we loved Ben. Kyle was the epitome of a happy, carefree baby. sat quietly watching things, cooperated w/bath time, feeding time, changing time etc. Had plural napdomes (morning nap, afternoon nap, evening nap).

Pam went ahead and had baby number 2. He he he he. LIttle Shawn was just like ‘cousin Ben’. We had a lot of fun w/that.

Babies have different personalities.

I have to disagree with you, hapaXL. I have four kids. Not two of them are alike. Same parenting style, pretty much the same everything, or at least as much as it can be with age differences. Babies are babies are babies. Some cry a lot. Some have digestive problems. Some sleep through the night the moment you give birth, some cry all night until they are six months old. Some are born with health issues. Some are just plain unhappy, some are really content. Some are active. Etc. I think you get the point. Babies aren’t born with the ability to say “Gee, these people seem really nice, I see the child rearing books on the shelf, they really seem to have given this whole thing some thought - I’ll be a happy, content baby”.

Your five-month old son is content, and you want to take all the credit for it? Wait until he’s fifteen, and then come talk to me. We’ll have a long talk about the effectiveness of parenting techniques.

Sure, neglected babies tend to be unhappy. I’ll give you that. Does that mean that every parent with a colicky child lacks your special parenting technique? Uh, I don’t think so.

Wring Do you have my kid? It sure sounds like it! I keep trying to tell him about curiosity and the cat, but he’s not listening. Not much for napping either, the world is just too interesting for sleep!

I’m totally with lolagranola on this one. I too have four kids. After having the first (darling, easy kid that she was) I thought I had this ‘parenting’ thing down pat, and would smile smugly at friends who had difficult babies. I had ‘the knack’ and they didn’t.

THEN I had NO: 2, and was somewhat shocked to find that it didn’t matter WHAT I did, how much I rocked and crooned and played and massaged etc etc, this new one was not going to stop crying and grizzling until he started to talk (luckily for him, he started talking coherently at 11 months).

When NO: 4 came along, he slept through the night, every night for 10 hours from 2 days old. He NEVER cried, slept lots, and just seemed to slot into the family ‘groove’ so easily that I PANICKED. I remember one day I had put him on the floor to change his nappy, went to the bathroom to grab a sponge, and when I got back, the other three (aged 2, 4 and 6) were using him to jump over like a hurdle. He lay there oblivious to the chaos, and had dozed off to sleep!! I was absolutely sure there was Something Wrong With This Kid. He was just tooooo good. So I took him along for hearing tests: they were fine. Took him along to check for developmental delays: nothing out of line there either. I’d stay awake all night while he slept to make sure he was really breathing. I just couldn’t RELAX and enjoy the peace, and this went on for SIX effing months!
Yep, when he was six months old, he started waking up three or four times every night, and generally being a bit of a pain as babies are.

The moral of this story is, as Lolagranola said, come back to the boards when your kid/s are teenagers and THEN gloat about how good your ‘parenting’ skills are. :stuck_out_tongue: I bet you’ll have a different story then!

I’ve worked day care for about five years, even though I’m only 20, and I have to say that the disposition of kids is largely lottery. Surely your hard work with this kid will pay off, but the tendency of a kid to cry or sleep tends to be pretty random. I’ve seen really loving parents with kids that wouldn’t stop howling, and I’ve seen really parents of shady interest in their child spawn kids that can’t stop smiling at everything!

Even my mom says that I was an extremely happy kid and my sister was always crying, and we were both raised in the same manner.

One of my friends was certain this his well-behaved, mostly compliant son was all the result of his and his wife’s special abilities. At least until the second was born. Now he’s much more sure that nature plays a big role in temperment and behavior.

As a parent who suffered along with a child with colic for six months, I enjoy seeing presumptous parents get their comeuppance with the second child. You might want to come off your high-horse before karma gets you.

I don’t think we need to wait until happy baby is 15. They just need to have another baby. Then come tell us about your parenting skills. They are all different - which is what is so cool about them.

aww come on. I’m not thinking the OP was on a high horse, so much as on a high - we remember, don’t we? those wonderful moments of feeling in control?

I think they were just trying to say that they’d put some effort into having a happy baby. I don’t think they were trying to say that parents of cranky babies were deficient (you weren’t, were you?)

anyhow, as a training exercise only, I’ll be happy to loan out my teenager so you can have a vision of “Christmas Futures”.

(insert evil laugh here).



The OP has to be joking right? You cannot seriously be saying that due to your excellent parenting skills you have succeeded in having an easy baby and thus are superior to those of us who got the more irritable kind? It’s people like you who IRL I just wanted to smack in the chops as my colicky baby (breastfed, family bedded, desperately wanted by both parents and who was handled with love and care) screamed for the first 18 months of his life.

But then I got to watch as some of these people went on to have more babies and joy of joy, they were less lucky with the next one and got to see that it is not expert parenting but a matter of temperament. My SO is one of these people. His daughter from his first marriage was easy, easy, easy. He knew it all until our son was born.

And wring? I think by saying that because he put effort into having a happy baby, he got a happy baby and that luck/lottery doesn’t play a factor in it. IME it does. My first baby was a nightmare and my second baby was easy and charming from birth.

Whooooof. You’re being too nice to 'im, wring.

Those parents who say to me “Oh, my baby started sleeping through the night at three days! And he never cries in public, or even at home! And he’s always gurgling happily! And he changes his own diapers and takes the stinky ones outside, riding the dog in a harness he designed himself!” are DAMN close to being throttled to death.

And if they threw in “And it’s all because I’m SUCH A GOOD PARENT!” I’d remove their heads from their shoulders with one powerful wrenching twist.
– Uke, veteran of one colicky early-teether with Anger Issues and one terrifying premature birth ordeal

PRima - I was trying to give them the benefit of doubt, I don’t really think they’d thought it all the way through to the logical conclusion:

  1. We put a lot of effort into our parenting.
  2. We have a happy baby.

Is all they did, I think, not going to the rest of it

  1. Therefore, anyone who doesn’t have a happy baby has therefore not put in sufficient effort.

Uke there’s a thousand and one reasons my son’s an only child- you’re a much braver human than I.

I think people who get demon children from hell for their first child are actually better off than the people who get lucky the first time around. What I saw with Mr P was that he very quickly went to pieces with the screaming baby whereas I knew no different. I just got on with finding ways of parenting the child I had birthed instead of expecting that he should be different because I was such a Good Parent.

It took a lot of courage to reproduce again. Mr P was not keen and it was a blessed relief to have a child who actually made me feel like a competent parent because he responded in the expected ways as opposed to doing new, unexpected and unpleasant ways. I will never forget the fortnight where he woke up every 20 minutes around the clock.

I have two kids who are very different from each other. They are both delightful (and sometimes insufferable, of course) in their own ways. But they couldn’t have more different strengths, needs and temperments. We love them the same.
One might be considered more “easy going” and “upbeat” than the other, but I don’t take personal credit for it. You can see the differences in temperment in litter of kittens and puppies before their eyes are even open, too. Sure environment plays a part, but less than parents like you would like to believe.

Most families I know of (including mine, when I was growing up) have a variety of temperments, levels of success/happiness/chips on shoulders in their children. It doesn’t matter if the parents have experience dealing with kids/schools/social work or not.

To be honest, I read this OP and also thought - Oh, here’s one of those smug people who judge me when my child acts out in public. Because I know if you take credit for the “easy” child you have, you judge those who have more labor-intensive kids.

I thought of a few possible final lines here, but I should probably just think em to myself.