Sometimes I wonder if people love babies and little kids because people love babies and little kids.*
Babies are happy and smile at everyone that looks at them… because that’s all anyone else ever does, is smile at them. In their world and experience, that’s what people do to each other.
But here’s my hypothesis, just for the sake of today’s discussion: Maybe they are so lovable because they are so loved.
(Plus, you know, also being tiny and squishy.)
If a baby is upset about something, they start screaming at you. I’m not sure how much more rude you could get. But the thing is, a baby starts screaming, even if they’re like in a movie or at church, and people just frown all sympathetically and assume that the baby is hungry, or teething, or sleepy, and they say “oh, poor thing,” and start frantically bending over backwards to try to feed, comfort, or soothe the baby.
(Well, if they are in a movie, there’s a good chance that the people in the theater are like “Why on earth did you bring a baby here?!?” But chances are, they don’t blame the baby.)
Even babies that cry for no reason, people say “poor sweet thing, he’s just colicky,” and they have utmost sympathy for the poor inconsolable creature and hope he feels better soon.
At what point do we lose this benefit of the doubt from the people that we encounter?
I mean, I realize that part of being an adult is becoming the master of your impulses, etc. Not screaming bloody murder when you’re hungry or have to go to the bathroom. I get it. But still, if someone is super rude at the grocery store, why don’t we say “Aw, poor thing, he must be really hungry/tired/stressed out”? And bend into pretzels trying to help him check out faster or get a better place in line?**
Why isn’t our first impulse, when we meet a new person, to look at them and think “What a sweet person. What a precious life. I’m going to smile all I possibly can so that hopefully they’ll smile back. I will make myself into an absolute fool if it might get them to smile. I’m going to tell them how beautiful they are and how they are the sweetest thing and how everything they do is so great.”
I mean, I get that this could get pretty pukey pretty fast, if everyone went around sing-songing and adding rhyming words to everything, and I’m not talking about that. I just don’t get why a kid is adorable just because they’re there; like, even the funny-looking kids are adorable because they’re adorably funny-looking. We see a baby (OF SOMEONE WE KNOW, I am not condoning doing this to strangers, people) and we want to hold it close to our chests, and then when we are holding it we want to say sweet and soothing things to it, and hug it tight, sing it songs, and kiss its cheeks.
I mean, I’m really trying not to get TOO gooey here but what if there was just kind of an adult-appropriate equivalent to this? What if the first time we met people we wanted to encourage and affirm them? To comfort them when they’re being difficult, instead of wanting to get away from them as fast as we can, to then go and gripe about them to other people?
There really is kind of a double-standard, in this particular human race, between babies and grown-ups. You might discover this with fostering, as well. A two-yr-old that punches and hits and says swear words, people say “Oh, that poor thing. I am so glad you are caring for him/her. He/She has only been around punching, hitting, swearing people all his/her life and doesn’t know any better.”
But the thing is, some of these punching, hitting, swearing parents have ALSO only ever been around punching/hitting/swearing people their whole lives and were repeatedly taught that this is the way a person survives in the world. And the older kids that are still in the system are often stuck somewhere in between, as far as public opinion goes. A pity in a general, statistical sense, but don’t let them near my breakables or my own impressionable kids.
There’s kind of this idea of an age of accountability, although I don’t know many people who would put a specific number of years to it. But I do know that people get a lot less grace the older they get. And I guess I get some of the rationale behind that, but I don’t know if I totally agree with it any more. Yes, there are those who have had good examples and have had choices and have chosen the selfish/instant-gratification/look-out-for-ME road on purpose. Shoot, I’ve done that over and over again all my life at various times and I had about the most solid, stable, loving upbringing there is.
But all I know is that I have no idea what it’s like to grow up being taken advantage of, abused, discouraged, devalued, and distrusted my whole life. No idea.
So I’m not sure I’m totally ready to say “They should know better.”
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*If you do not love babies and little kids, not only do you probably not really have a soul, but you also probably aren’t even being entirely honest with yourself. You may not love people obsessing about their baskillion babies on Facebook, but that has to do with not loving annoying parents, not not loving babies. You may not love kids throwing tantrums at Costco, but I’m pretty sure if they were your sister’s kids and you knew that they were usually really sweet and cuddly and just had a long day, you would say to yourself “Come on, cranky onlooker at Costco, give them a break.” You may not love the general idea of babies or kids because of how some people in or near their early-mid-late twenties get kind of obsessively obsessive about them and have to Pin eighty million baby outfit patterns and nursery décor ideas and maternity photo shoots, but again, I bet you wouldn’t shut the door in the face of an actual baby if you met one. Or you’re just one of those people who likes to say you hate whatever other people like because you like to be contrarian. If that is you, then you probably won’t like this blog post. And now, since I said that, you probably will. Crap, now you won’t again. I give up.
**I do not do this all the time. I’m not even 100% sure that I’m condoning this. I’m just saying that the utter nonsense apparent in this response is telling when juxtaposed with the response to pretty cranky behavior coming from infants. Because I mean, let’s be real. Everyone is stressed at the grocery store.