So, I’m currently spending a lot of time around new mums, and it makes for very interesting listening. Not having spent much time around babies before having my own I’d assumed, wrongly, that babies were pretty passive personality-wise for the first year or so.
However, it was clear from the very start that our daughter has a lot of personality. In terms of personality type she’s pretty demanding on the NOW not in 30 seconds side of impatient screams; that said she seems to take most things in her stride in terms of social interaction, and it’s clear that she takes great pleasure out of some things and is captivated by others. To me, she is perfect, and 99% of the time she seems entirely reasonable, which I reckon is pretty good going and doubt I’d fair so well! That said, I’m trying to veer away from declaring that ‘she LOVES or HATES this, that or the other’ or that she is definitively this sort of person or the other. She’s 4.5 months old, it’s pretty early days, and she’s only been exposed to the environments that I’ve introduced her to which, whilst wide-ranging, are still pretty limited to having only been breathing oxygen for such a short period of time.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I’ve recently heard mums say things that have surprised me. “I feel as though I don’t know my baby.” and “I can’t work my baby out.” and “As soon as I think I’ve worked my baby out, everything changes and I’m back to square one!” I’m wondering why people are battling with this. It’s as if ‘knowing’ their babies, being able to predict their every move, will give them an element of control over their babies – like a well trained dog. Though there’s so much going on with babies, so many variables at play that are going to impact on a baby’s behaviour. Is it not better then to expose, observe, listen, and respond accordingly to one’s baby rather than try to master the baby? Kind of like Baby Led Weaning for personality/interaction? I don’t know, my experience of babies is incredibly limited, but I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea of exercising control over a new, developing mind.
I suspect I’m particularly conscious of this as I wonder if I subconsciously project my energy on my daughter. I say that because whilst I try to be Chilled-Out-Mum when I take her to the doctors for her injections she is clearly tense from the moment we walk into the surgery… And whilst I’m completely oblivious to my feelings, my blood pressure indicates that I have white coat syndrome. Equally, our baby is often unsettled around a few people, and whilst I try to play it cool, I know fine well that those people stress me out.
I appreciate that this isn’t revolutionary thinking, but it’s made me think about the way in which we project onto individuals from birth. It’s astonishing really quite how happy we are to shoe-horn, categorise and shelve… And a bit frightening. A primary school teacher once said to me, “Well, you’ll never make a mathematician, but you can draw pretty pictures.” I was about seven, and I remember being quite upset by this. It was true, I wasn’t naturally gifted with numbers, but I wasn’t bad, and I wonder how much that comment undermined my confidence in my ability. Adversely, my husband believes that he has an excellent grasp of mathematics, and studied Maths electives at University, yet he didn’t do as well as I did in school maths exams… And still trips up with his calculations now.
I dunno, I just find it a bit unnerving I think. All these projections on tiny little humans just starting out in the world. Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que sera sera!