It’s All About Personality

It's all about personalityI was both lucky and unlucky with my first child. She was tough. Really tough. A colicky infant who wanted to be held and nursed all the time. A fiercely independent toddler who spoke in full sentences—and fully formed opinions—by 18 months and had zero separation anxiety. She wanted to explore her world at every opportunity, and had her own ideas about how to do everything. My second was not much different, I just had sufficiently lowered my expectations.

But my friend had a daughter who was just perfect. She had zero interest in anything more than 18 inches away from mom, was quiet, cautious, and did everything mom suggested. Kids like hers made me feel completely defeated. Where had I gone wrong? She was only three years old. How had I screwed up so badly to have ended up with such a opinionated, unruly child? I felt like a mess every time we went out in public, and as I got more and more pregnant with my second child, it was hard to keep up with her. I felt more and more like a failure.

Then I had my third. Jackpot! Compliant, cooperative, calm. She was the opposite of my other two. As a baby, I could lay her down while I dealt with whatever impending disaster the other two had created, and she seemed to understand that I needed a moment and would be back as soon as I could. She would reach for the crib when tired. Once she could walk, she would help me clean, do laundry, find her shoes or coat. She earned the superlative my husband and I secretly gave her: Best Baby Ever.

One day when she was two, I messaged my friend who had the Perfect Toddler. I offered my sincerest compliments on her humility. Her Perfect Toddler had been her first, yet she had never bragged, never offered advice, never gloated, never assumed it was about her parenting. Mine was my third, so I knew it had zero to do with me, but I could imagine what would have happened if my Perfect Toddler had been my first. I would have started writing books on parenting. I would have thought I had it all figured out. I probably would have had 10 or so more.

As moms, we get so much advice, especially when we have babies and toddlers. So much of the advice we hear isn’t helpful at all because you just can’t change personality. And if you’re a first-time mom, you may not realize how much of your baby’s personality is affecting things like sleep, nursing, and temperament. Whatever issues your baby has that trouble you—or delight you–at this young age, be assured that barring any kind of extreme circumstances, nothing you have done has really affected how they interact with the world. It’s all about personality.

It’s why we have to be so cautious about taking advice instead of listening to our gut and our mom instinct. Because before you even realize what things make your baby their own unique person, your gut knows. You mom instincts tell you what’s wrong and right for your child, and they may tell you different things the next time around.

When someone insists that something you are doing is making your baby clingy or crabby or “spoiled,” check that advice with your gut. If it doesn’t sound right, discard it. Measure advice you read against that mama instinct, too. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for the ways that your baby is unique. Know that anyone who brags about what their baby does or doesn’t do before age four is bragging about their baby’s genetics, not their parenting.

Trust your gut, love on that baby. That’s all the advice you will ever need.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.





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