Mother Nature (let’s call her MN)) is on a mission. Busy lady, MN. Having botched things in the Cretaceous era, she is determined not to fail again. She sets our biological clock ticking and sends our baby hormones racing headlong into the unknown. The cunning old biddy won’t give up on us until we’re procreating our heads off. Then, when her objectives are achieved she leaves us holding the baby. We are unprepared for the reality of leaky breasts and screams in the night and we are left without the tools with which to manage the strangers that have invaded our home. It’s at this exact moment that we come to our senses. The exact time when realisation dawns that the carefree phase of our lives is well and truly over and that these strangers are ours to keep. Forever.
I used to baby sit my friend’s baby. Such an easy child to look after. He was fed, burped and bathed by the time I arrived. I’d cuddle and kiss him and inhale that delicious baby smell. He was a happy, gurgling, sleepy babe when I arrived, and snoring his head off by the time I left him to his parents. I’d make my way home with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head. You’d have thought his parents would have disabused me of this false notion. Perhaps they wanted me to discover it first hand.
No one prepared me for the post birds and bees event. When I did think about what to expect I imagined having smaller versions of my adult self. Toothless and bald, to be sure, but civilised and rational beings. I’d explain that I couldn’t possibly give up my social life and they would nod knowingly. I Imagined us having long and meaningful conversations about life, love and current affairs as soon as their teeth kicked in.
Crying babes happened to other people. And in the unlikely event that mine stubbed a toe, well that’s what pacifiers are for, aren’t they? Put one in a child’s mouth and presto, they are pacified. What could be simpler? If I happened upon a toddler tantrum in the supermarket I’d curl an upper lip at the erring mother who should know better than to allow things to get to this unmanageable state. She should know what to do, I thought. Used to think. It’s a myth, I know that now.
We don’t know what to do. How would we? The parenting fairy doesn’t appear at our hospital, does she? Mother Nature has given us the flick and our friends haven’t exactly been forthcoming. So we’re forced to develop a tried and true method that works for us. In my case, it’s generally been a two steps forward, one step back affair.
Ironic but true, as I’m writing this, I’m at my local railway station where a mother is telling her son that if he ‘said that again’ he wouldn’t get an iPad 2. Good heavens, a 500 odd dollar iPad for behaving himself. That woman was desperate. I didn’t actually hear what the original offence was but her threat doesn’t seem to intimidate him. He continues with a ‘ksh, ksh’ sound. ‘You can’t hint either’ the poor thing added. There was a pleading tone in her voice. The tone was mine three decades ago. Do share, don’t touch, twenty cents is all the tooth fairy can afford. I was tired, she is tired. (Sounds like a grammar lesson, doesn’t it? ) Somebody should put a pacifier in her mouth, I thought,and tuck her in for a little snooze. She’s going to need to conserve her energy for the next few decades. But then the train arrived and we all clambered in. He sat quietly snuggled up to his mum and looked out the window. I was beginning to think I’d imagined it all.
When not cursing her out in the wee small hours, we parents find ourselves grateful to MN for leaving us a gift before leaving us flat. It would have been in her best interests of course, but she’s made sure that we love our young even before we’ve met them and that most of us will love them through their toddler tantrums, terrible twos and difficult teens. It gives them the chance to live and to reach a civilised stage. That last is when they leave us and give someone else the benefit of their upbringing and we are left wondering what it was all about. This is when MN is at her most cunning. Just when we are thinking of a sea change Mother Nature brings us a new generation to love.