Joseph was GOOD today.
I say it without thinking. And what I mean is that he didn’t cry much. Or he slept well. What I mean is that he was easy. Because, of course, being good is an entirely different thing. And while Joseph is certainly not always easy, he is certainly always good. After all, he’s a baby. And being little bundles of innocence, all babies are good.
But not all babies are easy, and there is nothing wrong with our wishing they were easier. There is nothing wrong with wishing our babies would sleep better, eat better, cry less—it makes us all happy to be less stressed and sleep-deprived and it makes us even happier to see our babies happy. So I know exactly why it’s exciting when Joseph is easy. What I don’t understand is why we have to call that ease being good. Is it just an expression? Or does this chronic word misuse have something deeper to it?
I think the reason we don’t say easy is because we so long for ease that we are willing to pretend it is a higher accomplishment than it actually is. We so want our babies to be easy (understandably so,) that we manipulate ourselves and them into thinking they must be easy in order to be good. For while ease is a very convenient addition to life, goodness is an invaluable one. Ease lends itself to happiness, but goodness is absolutely necessary for it. We know this deep within and most of all, we know that our children know it deep within. We know they are full of goodness and so, without consciously realizing it, we play off that goodness by teaching that difficulty threatens it.
And even in the most subtle of ways, children pick up on it. Just take the typical classroom setting. Children learn that they will be favored if they are predictable and quiet and understandable. And if they present any difficulty on all ends of the spectrum—shyness or boldness, learning too quickly or too slowly, being too sensitive about anything and in anyway—they will be considered a problem. And in the end, they graduate school and childhood with a firm belief in the need to be easy and often, little to no belief in the real need to be good. And the ones who have a more difficult time being easy often end up turning inward or turning on to things that actually damage their goodness because no one ever acknowledged such goodness in the first place.
And what happens to us when this happens? When children favor ease over goodness? Well, we have far less difficulty at home and in the classroom and in all the other places where children roam. But our world becomes somewhat plain and stagnant. Mozarts don’t write music and Einsteins don’t theorize. Hearts aren’t moved and minds aren’t broadened. When the difficult child (every child in his own way) is scolded for his difficulty, a seed is crushed—a seed that would have bloomed into a beautiful flower had it been gently nourished and guided.
And does it really start with all this talk about good babies? Might that seem a little bit of a stretch? Perhaps. Perhaps it makes no difference and means nothing—these subtle language cues. But what if it does make a difference? How would it change our outlook if we started to use the words correctly? If we started asking about easy babies rather than good ones? And assumed that all of them were inherently good? Might it take some stress off of having one who is difficult? Or better yet, take some stress off of being one who is difficult? After all, we are all babies inside. And we are all, to some degree, difficult. We all have things we don’t understand and things that we’re particularly sensitive to, and sometimes, like babies, we may seem to cry for no reason. And would it not be better to know that such a thing does not make us any less good, but in fact, may be an opportunity for goodness? For empathy, for bravery, for creativity, for sacrifice? What if we truly believed that, as long as goodness remains in my heart, “when I am weak, then I am strong?” And not just me, but my baby. That sometimes he may be difficult, but that I am here to comfort him in the midst of such difficulty, and guide him, so that he may learn to weave life’s sufferings into something magnificent. That he may take what is not easy, and turn it into something good.