I am a mother of two, totally different children. In fact, they've been different since before they were born. My daughter was a difficult pregnancy, so I had every symptom known to woman. I also had a traumatic delivery, and she was born with the umbilical cord tied around her like an ivy. She refused to nurse. She has acid reflux, colic, and for months, she didn't know nighttime was for sleeping. She wasn't the most approachable baby, either. But moms with grumpy-looking babies know their babies, including the fact that they're not actually grumpy. In the end, they're just babies.
My son was a relatively easy pregnancy, and that pregnancy ended with a quick delivery and a nice recovery. He nursed like a champ, slept through the night, and was generally happy baby. Like I said: my children are night and day different. And now that my daughter is 8 and my son is 3, the differences seem exacerbated. My son smiles at everyone. He recently had an entire conversation with the cashier at the grocery store. My daughter, however, refuses to speak to people she's not completely comfortable with. In fact, the more people want to talk to her, the more she doubles down. And as a new, clueless mother, I was worried about her demeanor and what strangers would assume about her (and me) as a result of it. What if everyone we came across thought my baby was rude? Thankfully, it didn't take me too long to realize that was a ridiculous fear. I mean, my baby was just a baby. (Plus, refusing to engage or smile at strangers is not rude, but that's a discussion for a later time.)
My son still doesn't smile at stranger. And that's more than OK, because that's just the way she is. She is her own person, with her own temperament, and with her own ideas of how she should behave. No matter what I tell and teach her, she will do what feels comfortable for her. Because she is not an extension of me. She is herself. And in being herself, this is what my grumpy-looking baby has taught me:
They're Just As Lovable As Every Other Baby
My baby is just like every other baby. She's loveable and sweet. She smiles at me all of the time and she has the same sparkle in her eye that all other babies do. She laughs and cries and she hugs me. She doesn't have to put on a happy face when we are out. I know who she is.
They're Not Grumpy Towards People They Know
While it does take her anywhere from a few minutes to an hour to warm up to those she does not know, my baby is usually very happy baby around people she knows. Grumpy-looking babies are just babies who aren't very easily entertained. They are babies who are watchful of the intentions of others.
They Smile On Their Own Terms
No one owes anyone anything in life, especially not a smile. Just because a grumpy-looking baby may make someone else uncomfortable, doesn't mean a mom should attempt to make her baby smile in order to please that person. My kids smile on their own terms, they don't owe anyone their friendship and emotions.
The More You Try To Please Them, The Grumpier They'll Look
If a grumpy-looking baby isn't smiling at you, give that baby space. Babies need time to warm-up to people. Hell, adults need time to warm-up to people. If you keep trying to get my kid to smile, she will just get more upset. For a baby to warm up to you, you should approach with care, follow their cues, and back off when they signal that they're uncomfortable.
They Have The Best Giggles
If you are successful at making a grumpy baby smile, just wait until they actually laugh. My baby has the best giggles because they are so seldom. Her smiles and giggles are like magic, and I think if she gave them out to just everyone, they would lose their luster.
The thing is, grumpy-looking babies aren't trying to be your friend. If they smile at you, you've earned their trust. If you've earned their trust, you did something right. So if that baby smiles at you, know that you've earned it.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.