My cousin, Garner, is an architect by training and an educator by vocation, but I’ve decided his real calling must be in child development and psychology.
Who cares if he is a single guy who has never had kids? He once explained human behavior and early childhood to me with a theory that was beautiful in its simplicity.
In short, Garner believes humans can be divided into two categories: Those who love being babies, and those who hate it.
The pro-baby camp, he explains, are the natural type-B sorts, who embrace the full job description of infancy. They love sleep, punctuated by naps. They are happy as long as there is another meal on the horizon. They adore being snuggled and carried around. They are fine with entrusting their care to someone else, which means they don’t have to worry about stressful decisions like whether they’ll get applesauce for lunch or the current plight of polar bears. They are cool with someone else picking out what they wear, as long as it is cuddly and soft and allows them to sleep even longer.
Pro-babies are typically chubby little cherubs of happiness — the type who sleep the whole night through by the time they are 2 months old and cry only when they are hungry or need changing. They master the irresistible baby giggle at an early age and raise cooing to an art form. They love living in the moment and spend their lifetimes trying to replicate the joy of being in the womb, when they were always warm, tucked in and well-fed. Pro-babies will tend to grow up to be philosophers, groovy English teachers who never give homework, and experts in smiling yoga.
The unbabies are another sort entirely. They hate babyhood. They don’t want to spend all day lying in a crib, stupidly digesting milk while reaching for those dangling giraffes and elephants positioned so maddeningly out of reach. These “new-boreds” may squirm and fuss a lot and will rarely sleep through the night. They don’t want to rely on others to carry them, because adults never take them where they really want to go.
They want to talk, walk and act NOW! They’ve got deals to make and tax accountants to see. They can’t wait to grow teeth so they can eat steak, but they want you to know that growing teeth is hard work and they aren’t happy about it! In the days before doctors determined baby walkers were dangerous, tiny unbabies zoomed around in them, ricocheting off furniture and appliances like hurtling hockey pucks. In ultrasounds, they can sometimes be spotted wearing a wee Fitbit and carrying a tiny planner.
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In my immediate family, I can easily sort my siblings according to pro-babies and unbabies. The most dramatic example of an unbaby is my oldest sister, Verbena. She popped out of the birth canal with huge, alert eyes and immediately chronicled her first big journey in a scrapbook. She lifted her head at an early age, mainly to see if she might be missing an important whitewater rafting trip or sale at Macy’s.
She couldn’t wait to grow up. Even her early childhood toys were mini replicas of adult fixtures. Home movies show her sticking pans into the oven, feeding bottles to her dollies and pressing doll clothes with a teensy iron — which, in classic ‘60s disregard for child safety, actually heated to approximate the temperature of the surface of the sun.
By age 2, she fiercely battled with my mother every morning about which outfit she wanted to wear. Mom wanted her to wear a sensible corduroy jumper; Verbena, forever the power dresser, wanted to wear a “dressy.” As she grew older, she fussed over us and bossed us, already showing the qualities of a CEO.
I, on the other hand, was pro-baby. Home movies show me sleeping. A lot. I also enjoyed watching the antics of my more adventurous sisters. In one, I am content to sit in a pile of dirty laundry while chewing on my dad’s belt. In another, I am on the couch, nestled inside a Pampers box (because nothing supports an infant’s developing spine like a flimsy cardboard box) while watching my big sisters clown and cavort.
This might explain why, even to this day, my favorite way to relax is to wrap myself in a cocoon of blankets to watch Netflix.
Classic pro-baby behavior: just looking for a womb with a view.
Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at firstname.lastname@example.org.