Monday, August 3, 2009

Happy Baby

Our friends have a very charming baby. She's about two years old now, and she's smart and cute and all that, but the thing that really amazes me about her is how freaking happy she is all the time. How does she do that, and where can I get some? Or at least, where can I learn how to bring up a kid like that?

Cause I got depression and I really, really don't want to pass it on.

I had extensive depression lessons as a kid. For example, when I was about four and my mom's rheumatoid arthritis flared up, I remember standing next to her chair and talking to her while she stared straight ahead and didn't answer me. When I was a little older she found a dent in a tea strainer that sent her off weeping. And about once a day for my whole life my dad took some perfectly normal occurrence to mean that the world was coming to the end of its inevitable downward spiral. It was a barrel of laughs around our house, for sure.

I learned it, and I don't want to teach it. Yikes.

So I'll act happy, right? I'll espouse concepts like 'the world is great', 'people are basically good', and 'everything is going to turn out just fine.' This seems like a solid plan until I remember myself as a cynical, irritable seven year old who was having none of it.

Like the time fifth grade some nimrod at my elementary school hired an inspirational speaker to come inspire us. Our class was marched down to the all-purpose-room to hear an old dude with stick-out ears chant 'life is good, good, good!' at us. Even at the time I wondered how much he got paid for that, and could we have our taxes back? Then in seventh grade we all had to take a course called 'Quest' aimed at making us love one another through planning our social and financial futures in unsupervised 'cooperative' groups. At the end of the quarter, when we were allowed to give feedback on the experience, I stood up and announced that the entire class had been unmitigated hooey.

wait, are pep rallies required?

What to do? Right now I only have a growing version of what one of my college students called 'the anti-list' (everything he wasn't going to do for his final project, including mediate the artistic process with his mind). So far I've got:

  • not say that child's behavior x will result in eventual doom
  • not say (or imply) that child is unattractive
  • not send insomniac child back to room with instructions to 'work on your breathing' (sorry mr. buddhist, but save that for the grown ups)
  • not insist that every single thing the child thinks is wrong is due to lack of sleep
  • not to announce that the world is becoming uninhabitable for environmental/economic/aesthetic reasons
  • not have inexplicable crying jags

I sent Mr. Artistic Process back to write me a new project proposal after reading his anti-list. Now if only I could come up with my own . . .


  1. I think I want to be friends... I've been wondering about this a lot myself recently as we prepare to start on this journey of parenthood... and you're in this city too! I look forward to reading more of your musings. (got here from the IVP...)

  2. let's be friends! do you have a blog? if you don't want to post it publicly, you could send it to

  3. I've got depression too, as does my husband, but we have a lovely, happy baby (thus far--one year old). I think that my zoloft helps--baby still gets it a little in the breastmilk, and I'm okay with that 'cuz it keeps me happy, too! I'm also a psychiatrist and specialize in pregnant and postpartum women, so I know more than I should about depressed mommies. Here's a more positive list: love your child, love your partner, hold your baby, sing to your baby (we do mostly made up songs), read to your baby....the list goes on and on. But it gets easier as you get more attached every day (it took me a few months for that).