‘Emotional Baby’: Cute, or Not So Cute?

emotional baby screengrabMary-Lynne, the 10-month-old baby in a video called “Emotional baby! Too cute!” (see below) feels her mother’s musically expressed emotion very strongly. As her mother soulfully sings the 1988 Rod Stewart song “My Heart Can’t Tell You No,” Mary-Lynne’s facial expressions move from wide-eyed wonder to scrunch-faced smiles to streaming tears to what appear to be grimaces.

Since being published on October 18, 2013, the video has gone viral with its over 16 million views and 100,000-plus “likes” (and counting), with most of the YouTube comments consisting of things like “cute baby,” and “this is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.” But with over 3,000 “dislikes,” there are also some who insist that the video is “not so cute”; one of these is Tere Peman, who comments, “The baby is scared of mom[’s] unusual voice. [S]he begin[s] to smile when [the] mother seems to stop singing.” Peman, who says in her comment that she is a mother, too, goes on to suggest that the baby is, in fact, “suffering.”

Even the mother, Amanda Leroux, acknowledges this toward the end of the video when she stops singing and says to baby Mary-Lynne, “Oh, you feel the pain in the song, yeah honey? Big tears. Are you crying? Oh, you’re crying, monkey. OK, mommy’s done. … It’s just a song.”

In a Skype interview with The Today Show on Tuesday, Leroux says she’s been singing to Mary-Lynne since she was in the womb, and was just trying to capture video of her baby’s particularly potent emotional response to the song to share with her husband and family (Schlosser, 2013). Her intention was not for the video to go viral, and she probably couldn’t have imagined that multitudes of people would be commenting on what she presents as an intimate moment of bonding with her child. Such is the nature of social media, though.

And considering the widespread viewing of this video as well as the mixed, predominately positive responses of those who have watched and commented on it, GoodTherapy.org decided to check in with Ruth Wyatt, LCSW and child psychology Topic Expert, to see what she thinks of the video “Emotional Baby, Too Cute!”

A Child Psychology Expert Perspective on ‘Emotional Baby’

Wyatt’s immediate response was that Mary-Lynne, although an adorable baby, is not at all happy. “Clearly, this mother is wanting to share something with her daughter. Sharing our feelings with our children can be a very important way we connect to them,” she says. However, Wyatt adds, “As beautiful and important as it is for us to share our feelings with our children, we need to understand where our children are developmentally and what they can handle.”

Noting how Mary-Lynne smiles when her mother stops singing and cries when she starts again, Wyatt says, “My sense is that the baby [is] in some distress and that she [is] confused by her mother’s singing, hence the shift in affect.” She adds, “Perhaps picking up on the sadness of the song or responding to the altered state of the mother, the baby does not seem to feel safe. My sense is that she wants the calm, soothing mom to return.”

She goes on to say, “Babies have no language but they can feel and take in the cadence of our voices, our feelings behind our words. I think this mother just needs to tune in a bit more to these aspects of her baby and maybe save the sad songs for when the baby is a bit older.”

Have you seen the video? What do you think? Is “emotional baby” cute, or not so cute?

Reference:

  1. Leroux, A. (2013, October 18). “Emotional baby! Too cute!” YouTube . Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIsCs9_-LP8
  2. Schlosser, K. (2013, October 29). Baby girl moved to tears by mom’s singing in viral video. Today.com. Retrieved from http://www.today.com/moms/baby-girl-moved-tears-moms-singing-viral-video-8C11487730

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Brynn

    November 2nd, 2013 at 5:17 AM

    THe baby is beside the point. I think that the weirdness is that so many people feel the need to post everything they say and do online.

  • Jude S

    November 2nd, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    Ooh I felt very uncomfortable watching the baby’s reaction and having just done some work around my narcissistic mother issues it reminded me of how finely tuned kids can be to their parent’s emotions. The mum is allowed to sing and express herself of course, but definitely needs to watch for her child’s reactions to the mood of the piece to see if it’s suitable – in this case obviously not.

    I can remember certain songs around the time of my folk’s divorce when I was five, that absolutely terrified me because of their emotional intensity and how they seemed amplify the sad atmosphere I was living in too too much with traumatising effect resulting in nightmares.

    In time dramatic songs can help you release sadness but little kids are just like tape recorders and are far too sensitive to that amount of feeling.

  • Jomary Hilliard, Ph.D.

    November 2nd, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    I found this video very painful to watch. The baby seems to be in significant distress, which would seem to me to be a good cue to turn off the camera and focus on her, not on performing and posting.

  • Jerrie L

    November 2nd, 2013 at 10:28 PM

    Mary -Lynne is a beautiful child,she appears to be in great distress almost grief. It hurt my heart to watch her. I just wanted to pick her up, hold her and tell her she is going to be okay.

  • Lisa

    November 2nd, 2013 at 10:44 PM

    I think you people have problems. The baby is in my opinion clearly feeling the emotion of the song.. A sensitive soul. You can say what you want about knowing how the baby is feeling but there is no screaming or clear distress. It’s SINGING. Not yelling, violence, or anything like that. I do not biebe for a second that the baby is hurting at hearing her mother sing, & I feel sorry for those that do. What’s wrong with you people?

  • Jessica

    November 3rd, 2013 at 8:53 PM

    I agreeeee with u ! She wasn’t hurting the baby like other parents screaming yelling pushing ! She was ONLY singing !!! My opinion is that the baby was joyful that her mommy is singing to her ? Who knows but she not hurting the baby!!! Really peeps!!!!!

  • JoEllen

    November 3rd, 2013 at 4:30 AM

    I know that we have a tendency today to want to share (feel the need to share?) every moment of our lives but this seems a little too much for me. I am like the last writer, if I thought that it looked like my baby was having a fun time, then that is one thing. But to see how obviously sad this was making the baby? At that time I think that it would be time to stop and comfort the baby, not keep on going. Who are we really trying to promote here with stuff like that?

  • EMILY

    November 3rd, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    I was uncomfortable watching this too – On the one hand baby’s facial expressions are so poignant and communicative, and I wondered if the baby was responding to the affect in mom’s tone of voice and possibly mom’s own facial expressions in relation to the content of the song (of course baby doesn’t know what the *words* mean but the affect is clear enough to ascertain by tone of voice and body language, which babies are easily keyed into). I think what made me uncomfortable is that people seem to be interpreting baby’s expression as if it’s adult expression, perhaps projecting their own reactions to the song onto baby’s expression. Baby seems like a sweet, sensitive soul and I hope he and mom continue to bond in healthy ways, and I hope that baby gets to be baby rather than carry the burden of adult affect/expression too early.

  • Brian

    November 3rd, 2013 at 6:47 PM

    The baby is responding the same way we respond to music that makes us cry; and the same way this video made me cry of awe and deep joy. Not one second have I felt this baby in distress; she was moved by the melody and it’s emotional charge. Those who perceive this negatively must be very sad in their mind and soul. Or never felt any empathy or joy.

  • stressmom

    November 4th, 2013 at 4:53 AM

    I get the gist of what you are saying Brian, but still, don’t you think that it’s odd that this child feels this so emotionally and deeply? I am not sad and I certainly have joy in my life but this still is, I guess I am at a loss of words for it. I feel bad for the baby.

  • Josie

    November 7th, 2013 at 7:41 PM

    People are making too much reading into this baby’s ‘distress’. I have a really good memory and actually remember my mum singing melodic songs to me at bedtime when I was about 2 years old and feeling my mum’s voice was so beautiful and emotional and trying to stop myself from crying so I would pretend to sleep. When I hear the same song now ‘black eyes’ I still feel like crying but it is not pain is just pure emotion. Can’t explain it any better than this but with all my four children whenever I sang to them they would do what this baby does in the video so I could never really sing much more than ‘twinkle twinkle litter star’ or they would start bawling their eyes out. My mother in law never had that effect on my kids however and she used to point out my singing must be a lot more in tune and melodic than hers lol! I would say though that the minute my kids would start to scrunch their little faces I would stop singing as I did not want them to feel so emotional.

  • Mark

    February 22nd, 2014 at 5:59 AM

    I think the people talking about this baby’s “distress” have never had a child and have never experienced/observed what happens when a baby is distressed. They don’t go from tears to smiles to tears to smiles – it’s just tears! And really pretty much everything else just disappears. If the baby was in real distress it would have been just tears and wails and I’m sure the mother would have stopped straight away to comfort her child.

    Why does it seem so strange the a child can respond to emotional music emotionally and be perfectly fine just as adults do? I can even see the child is smiling while the tears come (with only an occasional “grimace” when the emotions get stronger) clearly showing that the child is not unhappy or distressed but just feeling the music – and enjoying it (as evidenced by the end result – more smiles).

    Most of us as adults have lost this child-like sensitivity and emotional expressiveness. We could do with becoming more like this child in her healthy expression of emotions without holding it in or worrying about what others thing about us if we get a little emotional.

    I have to wonder if the learning of the child psychology expert in this instance is somehow blinding them, rather than informing them, as to what is intuitively obvious to most people who won’t over-think things like this too much and instead rely on our common human instincts and understanding.

  • C. W.

    January 2nd, 2016 at 7:33 AM

    When my daughter was about 3 months old, she would cry anytime she touched a particular toy on her floor mobile. It played an electronic version of Its A Small World. I wondered if perhaps the pitch of the electronic music distressed her in some way or hurt her ears. I removed that toy from her mobile.

    In the following months, I observed that she would cry anytime sad music was played on the radio or television. Technically, it wasn’t a “cry”. She would just swell up with sad face and sad eyes and a single tear might fall. Never a wail or a sound from her. And then she’d be fine when it was over. I tried searching online for info about it but this was 16 years ago and I couldn’t find anything, which was frustrating. Surely I didn’t have the only baby that did this! The behavior continued until she was verbal – about 2 years old. And wow did she talk a LOT.

    We got a guitar for her when she was young, maybe 9 or 10. She didn’t show much interest. We got a ukulele and a second nicer guitar for her around 13. She immediately learned to play the uke but still wasn’t overly interested in guitar. (Her younger brother, however, loved playing the guitar.) Then, when she was 15, almost a year ago, her father bought a piano for me for Valentine’s Day. It was damaged and sent back so we didn’t get the replacement until March. I had always wanted to learn piano. I still don’t know how to play it. But my daughter took it over and now, less than a year later, she’s playing classical pieces. No one in the house or our family (that I know of) knows how to play the piano and she’s never had a lesson.

    Don’t get me wrong, she didn’t just sit down at the piano and instantly start playing Chopin. She had to work at it like any other child. But she was/is obsessed with that instrument. It’s the first thing she does when she wakes or walks in the door after school, and the last thing she does before bed.

    Is it related to the crying when she was a baby? I don’t know. Maybe. All I can say for certain is that I have the 16 year old version of the baby in the video and she has an above average ability to play 2 instruments that we know of without the benefit of lessons. What if we had gotten a piano earlier? That’ll haunt me for life.

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