Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how much we expect from our children. We expect them to be hungry at a time that is convenient for us, we expect them to want to sleep at a time when we want to sleep and we expect them to like certain toys and games. But the thing that has been bothering me recently is how babies are expected to show us how happy they are in the form of smiles and laughter, all day, every day. From the moment that they first show us that gorgeous smile they are suddenly expected to smile on demand. Every stranger that pokes their head in their pram is looking for that gummy grin and every well meaning relative that brings them a new toy wants the acknowledgement of a giggle. But what if the baby doesn’t want to smile at a stranger? Or what if they are tired and don’t want to laugh at a new toy or a game of Peek-A-Boo? Quite often that child will be branded as shy or even thought to not be a happy and content baby. I think that people forget that babies are people too, they all have different personalities and likes and dislikes.
I have found this to an extent since having Darcie, when she is around people she knows and recognises and they are playing with her then she is all smiles and giggles. But if somebody she doesn’t know as well looks her directly in the eyes and expects her to laugh, she clearly feels intimidated, her face crumbles and she will bury her face towards me. And that’s fine. It doesn’t mean she is shy, or easily scared, or not content. It literally just means that she doesn’t like what is happening in front of her. As adults we are capable of pretending to like things or to find things funny to spare the feelings of that person, but babies don’t have this skill. I’m becoming sick of having to apologise to people who appear genuinely offended that she hasn’t smiled back or laughed at the face they are pulling.
I’ve heard the term ‘mummified’ batted around as a negative to describe babies and children who have a close bond with their Mum and prefer to turn to them for comfort and reassurance. I don’t see anything wrong with this and I definitely wouldn’t think of it as a negative thing. Of course a Mother and her child have a special bond and there will always be times and situations when no one else will do. For myself and Darcie, we spend the vast majority of our time together because I am the stay at home parent. I would worry if Darcie wasn’t ‘mummified’ because it would probably mean I hadn’t done my job properly as I have given up work in order to not only be her main caregiver but to form a strong relationship with her. That’s not to say that she doesn’t have special bonds with other people, she is so close to her Daddy of course and other family members and friends that we see more often. She has little buddies at baby group that she will happily play with and she is confident to be around their Mums because they are familiar to her.
I know that my little girl is happy and content and we have so many smiles and laughter throughout our day, she doesn’t have to smile at a stranger to reassure me of that. Us Mums have enough to worry about without random passersby making us feel bad that our child won’t show them her pearly whites (well pearly white to be exact!)