There’s one question that will always rile me up regarding babies. It’s one that is thrown at you constantly, especially by women of a certain age. It seems to be the go-to question when people don’t know what to ask.
‘Is he a good baby?’
No, Sheila, he’s a fucking arsehole. I’m pretty sure I noticed a 666 behind his ear last night, and it’s clear he’s doing it all on purpose. Or, perhaps, he’s just a baby and the concept of good and bad makes absolutely zero sense.
It’s such a weird question, and not just because of the enforcement of adult morality on an infant who is regularly scared by his own farts.
Because what does it even mean? You’re basically asking ‘does he sleep’ and ‘is he quiet’. And, no. To both of those things. Because he’s a baby. Babies don’t sleep, they’re not supposed to sleep, they’re supposed to wake up in the night, it’s how they get enough food to stay alive. Which is a handy function. They also cry, even the quiet ones cry, again, it’s a pretty essential part of existing as a baby.
It’s not just the pointlessness of the question that annoys me, it’s the way it can make the person who’s answering feel. You have to lie, because no baby fits the idea of a ‘good baby’. So you’re forced to bullshit something like ‘ohhh usually…unless he’s hungry hahahahaFUCKOFF!’.
For me it goes even deeper than that. For me the question rings in my ears whenever we’re in the middle of a sleepless night, or a screaming fit that makes you wonder what baby ear drums are made out of to be so resilient. For me in those moments I feel like a failure. In those moments I think of that family member who chose that as their first question. Who tutted when he started crying and said ‘he’s not always like this?’.
Those moments are dark as it is. It’s in those lonely minutes that feel like hours that we question our ability to parent, our relationship with our child, and, in the darkest moments, our love for our babies. Add in the thoughts of people’s judgements and opinion that in this moment your baby is bad and an already scary, sad, lonely moment becomes even worse.
I know this isn’t the intended effect of the question. It’s just a stupid question that people ask without even thinking about what they mean with it. It’s like how we ask ‘how are you’ multiple times a day without actually wanting to know the answer. It’s part of the well-rehearsed social script, it’s just that this particular part is a bit shit.
It’s one of those things that just needn’t be said, put a little bit more thought into your small talk. Or just talk about the weather. Either is preferable.
Because as always I am the helpful and giving type, I’ve come up with some alternative conversation starters that won’t make me want to stab you in the eye with a sterilised safety cotton bud.
‘How are you? No really, you doing ok?’
‘Have you been able to get much sleep?’
‘Did you see Doctor Foster this week?’
‘Do you want me to hold the baby while you have a wee?’
‘Can you believe there’s going to be THREE Kardashian babies?!’
‘But really, are you ok?’