Mar 2, 2012  •  In Aerin, Baby, Claire, Motherhood, Personal

The Serious One vs The Happy One

At about this time last year, I would often wonder if I were doing something wrong with Claire. Yes, every new mother has her moments of doubt regarding childcare, but the type of worry that went through my mind was of a different sort — I was concerned because Claire was such a serious, intense baby.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a baby frown that much!” was a phrase I heard often.


Claire at four months old

Now that we have Aerin, whose personality has really started to surface in the past month or so, I know that I was foolish to have worried with Claire — it was just her personality! She is a pensive, serious type who only truly shines in environments and with people she loves the most, just like her mama.

In stark contrast to her older sister, Aerin is very much a happy and affectionate baby. She started to responsively smile and laugh out loud a lot faster than Claire did, and is already “talking” up a storm. And when strangers see her? “What a content little girl!” The difference between the two girls is so remarkable that even our pediatrician commented it on it.

Not only is Aerin a much happier baby than Claire was, she is an easier one too. Aerin began sleeping in 7-8 hour stretches through the night when she was just 8 weeks old. Claire didn’t get to that point until she was about 7 months old, even with sleep training! And while Claire would just sometimes cry and cry for hours at a time for seemingly no reason, J likes to say that Aerin “cries with a purpose” — meaning that she will only cry if something is wrong. (She does have her moments here and there. But I assume this is typical of all babies, no?)

And herein lies my observation as a mother to a difficult baby as well as an easy baby: a happy and easy baby is soooo much easier to bond with. This is not to say that parents of easy babies have lesser bonds with their children, but that they may have had an easier time bonding with them. After all, isn’t it generally easier to get along with, and more quickly befriend people who are friendly and sociable?

Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder how things might have been like if we had had Aerin first, or if Claire were an easier baby. Would I still have been accused of having post-partum depression? Would I still have shed that many tears? Would I have been shouting from the rooftops, “I love my baby! I love motherhood! I love my life!”?

J and I tell our friends that we feel as if we’ve paid our dues with Claire, and that it was only fair Aerin turned out to be such a happy and easy baby. And we are both grateful that we had the difficult one first, because going from hard to easy is always more preferable to the reverse. That, added to the fact that life with two kids just 13 months apart is hard enough as it is.

Does it seem like we love Claire any less, or that we are resentful of her? I hope not — that’s as far from the truth as it can get! Because while an easy baby may be easier to bond with, it seems that difficult babies force deeper bonds more quickly. :-)

18 Responses to “The Serious One vs The Happy One”

  1. Have you heard of the orchid-dandelion theory? There was a really interesting article in The Atlantic a few years ago about it here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/12/the-science-of-success/7761/.

    Basically, some children are like dandelions (“easy”): adaptable, happy, adjust easily; others are like orchids (“difficult”): sensitive, intense, trouble adapting to change. The dandelion children do well under most circumstances; the orchid children need just the right environment to flourish, or they will develop big problems. But if they do get the right environment, they become society’s most creative and successful people. It’s kind of two differing biological strategies.

    It’s lucky for Claire she has two such caring parents!

  2. Donna:

    I can definitely relate. My mother also told me how my son was so serious and I didn’t know where she was coming from. Sure, he gave me a smile here and there but when I had my second, my daughter, I realized what she was talking about. My daughter babbles and is constantly smiling/giggling. What a difference!

    Btw – how far are you from Philly? I’m planning a trip to see my sister in Philly and would love to meet up and do a playdate with you!

  3. JustAng:

    I, too, have a “serious one.” She is not a smiler by nature and can be very, very difficult. (Took 10 months to get her to sleep through the night, and that was with three rounds of sleep training.)

    I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sometimes jealous when I see these giggly, adaptable babies. But that doesn’t change my love and gratefulness for her. Realizing that it is just her personality has helped a lot. Sounds so simple, but it’s a actually a hard concept to grasp. You constantly doubt your parenting and ask yourself, “How can I make her happier?” Understanding that happiness isn’t always shown in squeals and giggles is a big thing. And those rare grins are even more gratifying because of it.

    I will say that I always thought I’d have a few children. My journey with my daughter had made me re-think that. I know everyone says you usually do not get two tough babies in a row, but the gamble always scared the crap outta me. Reading your story gives me some encouragement that two babies with two dramatically different dispositions CAN indeed happen. Maybe my daughter will get a sibling after all.

    • I was very, VERY scared that I would end up with another difficult baby when I found out I was pregnant with Aerin. And while I have heard of parents getting two, or even three difficult babies in a row, those cases seem to be very rare, so have hope!

      I loved what you wrote in your second paragraph, because that is EXACTLY how I was with Claire!

  4. Jill:

    I think Claire’s just mad the Ravens haven’t made the Super Bowl the past couple of years. :) Seriously, though – maybe she is just the serious type and she’s not always going to be a giggly, smiley baby. There is nothing wrong with that! As long as you love her and guide her and give her what she needs, she will turn out just fine.

  5. I’m so glad you wrote this post. Noelle is a serious baby too, and I also had those same parenting doubts esp in the first couple of months. She also didn’t “social smile” as much as I hoped she would. But I do think it’s in her personality to be more on the shy, introverted, serious side. I would characterize her as more of a “high needs” baby too… so I was always able to relate to your stories about Claire!

    I definitely do not love her any less, in fact, it’s hard for me to imagine loving her any more than I already do… but she does wear on my patience at times.

    I was just joking around yesterday with my small group that I had prayed for patience for so many years… and since God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we expect, He gave me a high needs baby to teach me patience. LOL I’m half kidding.

  6. This is so fascinating! I am always all about Team Nurture… but what an interesting anecdote for the Nature side!!! Makes you wonder about the Zodiac and hokey stuff like that too!

    Claire is still so adorable even with her frowny face!!!!! : )

  7. Diana:

    When you describe Claire I feel like you are describing my baby Sofia. But I have found that she is so difficult, because she is VERY smart. At 17 months she can already read some words. maybe a less happy baby sometimes mean a smarter baby too.

    • Haha sometimes I wonder that too — as they say, ignorance can be bliss! Claire is one smart baby and I always get amazed at her intelligence (and I get scared too, because I know she will outsmart me!).

      • Diana:

        Maybe a difficult baby is what had made motherhood so hard for us. I also had problems with nipple confusion and was pumping for almost a year. All of that has made decide not to have any more kids.

  8. Emily:

    My mom has often commented that she’s glad they had my brother first because he was a much more difficult baby than I was (born 20 months after him). It took him many months to sleep through the night, but I started sleeping through the night by the end of the second week. Also, he would fuss and demand attention whenever he was awake, but according to my mom, she would often find me contentedly laying in my crib and softly “singing” if I woke up and no one immediately came in or just sitting up looking around around the room when I was a bit older.

    Although I think my brother and I have similar likes/dislikes, senses of humor, and personalities, we are quite a bit different still. He always did better in sports, science, and history, but I was better at English and art. Another difference is that he tended to be more of a crowd-follower in high school and college, while I didn’t care if I was accepted by the “popular” crowd.

    It’s really interesting to see how babies turn out! :-)

  9. Molly P:

    I think it’s interesting that most of the comments above are from people who had “difficult” first babies. I did too. My mother pointed out to me (and I think she has a point) that first MOTHERS are more difficult, and therefore first BABIES can be too. My 2nd is also easier and, of course, I KNOW I’m easier this time around. (not that I wasn’t terrified of having two babies so close in age, but at least I knew a little more what to expect). I agree that innate personality plays a factor, but perhaps nurture does as well.

    • I think that both nature and nurture both play big roles in how we turn out as adults, but I personally believe that nurture usually manifests itself a bit later in life (toddler years as opposed to infant). And although I know that I am easier this time around too, the difference between my two girls was so drastic even from day one that at this point in Aerin’s life, I really do think that it’s more nature than nurture. I can’t help but think about my MIL, whose personality is very similar to mine (I know, it’s kinda creepy ;-) ), and how she tells us that my husband — her first — was the easy one and how his little brother was so much more difficult. Or, my cousin who has twins, and how one was more laid-back and generally a happier baby from the start too.

      As for the comments? I actually knew before I posted this that I would get far many comments from those who are in similar situations, because that’s almost always how has been with this blog! The only exceptions are posts that talk about controversial topics, as I find that most commenters who disagree or can’t relate usually do not comment unless it is a topic they feel passionate about. :-)

  10. Yebin:

    Claire’s the mini me 13 years ago.

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