So when do you reckon it’s ok to start attributing negative traits to someone?
Because, you know, us new parents sure take pride in our kids. We love ascribing positive qualities to them, most of which cannot possibly actually be possessed by a little baby. I hear it all the time – people complimenting their beautiful, placid, tranquil, curious, attentive babies, basically for sitting still and not doing much. We’re almost expected to say nice things to people about their kids – and there is a knack to it, its just about choosing your adjectives carefully. So long as they aren’t insults. (I think there is a nice lesson for humanity in this btw – it’s always possible to find a good point about a person if you are compelled to look for it).
A lot of people say for certain that babies are just born with personality. I always doubted this, I’m firmly on the side of nurture over when it comes to most things. We’ve always spoken of our baby having certain traits but to be honest i think of this kind of speech as more of a comforting way of making sense of things rather that real descriptions of who she is. I would prefer not to pigeonhole her – I saw the quote “every day she wakes up different” recently and I really like that idea.
But – we have always described her as wilful, determined and furious – in that everything she ever did was done with intense fury. We thought of those as admirable qualities, but quietly, I’ve always been scared that she’ll grow up to be a jerk. For 8 months, Ada was the only baby in our immediate group of friends and so she’s always got loads of attention. She’s now a very smiley kid who loves being in crowds, likes the attention of strangers, and is comfortable with everyone. All that is nice, but what if she becomes a bigheaded little princess? Cos that’s how we’ve nurtured her? If she is like that, how should we as her parents go on disguising it with polite adjectives or just admit it?
Also – today, we had 6 other babies at the house for a few hours. They played on the floor together. She made two of them cry and was constantly snatching, clawing at them, shoving them over. Of course, the other mums played this down – she’s just a baby she doesn’t know any better. But what if she’s actually a dick? A bully? At what age does it become appropriate to say “that baby is acting totally up themselves”, “He’s being a moody little sod” or “That baby is being a spiteful cow”?
Obviously it’s never going to be OK to say those things out loud, that would be rude – but at some point, those become appropriate descriptions for their behavior. In management, we’re taught to judge the action, not the person, but sometimes, some people, like some elephants, are just jerks.