Babies are great… and awful. If you listen to an honest debate between a loving parent and someone who doesn’t have children, chances are high that they would not truly understand each other. Parenthood is a life-changing experience, so much so that it is often hard for people whose home has already been invaded by a baby and people who still think that Saturday mornings are for sleeping in to speak the same language. But everyone can agree that babies are human. And that makes them complicated and hard, just like all humans. Humans, including tiny ones, are great, and yes, awful.
Usually, discussions around the subject of babies focus on one aspect of the way that babies impact individuals or society in general. We tend to categorize babies as a specific “other” rather than as humans. For example: babies are needy, babies are cute, babies are difficult, etc. These statements could just as easily be said about adult humans. In fact, some babies are not needy, some are not cute, and some are seldom difficult.
The key difference between babies and adult humans is that a baby’s very survival depends on the adult human beings that brought it into existence. Whether or not those adult humans accept their responsibility and fulfill it is another aspect of complicated human interactions that we could lose ourselves in for hours of discussion. I believe that the vast majority of parents want their children to grow up happy, healthy, and able to contribute to the world around them in a positive way.
The worry that comes with having a baby is the most awful of the awfulness of babies. When my first child was born, I realized that worry was just another part of being human in general. In the first year, I desperately kept track of every milestone that made me feel calmer about her well-being. I counted down the days until she seemed stronger, until all the first routine screenings came back, until the statistics said she was safer from SIDS, until she could roll over at night if she needed to, and until her neck seemed stronger in the car seat. It was never ending, and I was determined that I could keep her alive and well through vigilant worrying.
I will never forget the moment when it truly hit me that there would never be a time when I would actually believe that my baby was safe. It’s possible that I have retroactively invented this part of the story, but I believe that when this realization came, I almost dropped her. Even if I succeeded in keeping her alive until adulthood, car crashes and disease could always be a millisecond away. Raising babies is terrifying, but all relationship bonds carry risks.
From a sociological perspective, babies have a huge impact on the future. Not in the “children are our future” cliché kind of way, but because of how babies will affect our future world. They will grow into adults. They will be great and awful. They will continue to sometimes be needy and difficult. Caring for an infant may not be for everyone. I have been (I’ll admit) pleasantly surprised that the positives of having babies in my house have outweighed the negatives. Having babies is not for everyone, but respect for humanity definitely should be. It is in our best interest as a society to take care of humans who are babies and humans who are grown.
We all began as babies. We can all agree that babies are human—complicated, difficult, yet miraculous humans. Everyone—from the six-pound baby to the six-foot-tall man—depends on someone. Shoulders to lean on are not just for onesie-clad infants. They are also helpful for struggling adults.
The next time that you are tempted to snuggle or make googly eyes at a tiny baby, remember that a much larger person in your life may also need a hug. Consider being willing to forgive an adult fit over being “hangry” as easily as you would an infant’s. Naps and snacks still work wonders for all of us. A baby throwing a tantrum in the grocery store or screaming in a restaurant should be extended some grace, but so should annoying grown-ups. Take a deep breath and realize that we all have ugly moments as well as other, beautiful moments. The baby, you, and everyone you know are great… and awful. We are in this together.
This post reflects the views and experiences of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on parenting from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.