I have been listening to Woman's Hour on Radio 4 again this morning, as I do most mornings. The discussion was about choosing to have children versus choosing to remain childless. I was reminded of a piece which I wrote a while ago. Coincidentally, my thoughts have been on babies and children for the past few days, as our younger child turned twenty yesterday. Finally, the teenage years are over. A new chapter is beginning. Here is the piece.
I Wish them Luck
the young married couple next door
have decided to have a baby
good for them
I wish them luck
No really, I do
But I also wish someone would tell them,
and I know that no-one will
and even if they did, the poor souls would not listen
to a word of it,
that they are not just having a baby –
they will be having
a tiny infant
who cries in the night
and demands their attention -
no-one else is going to
attend to its needs
they will have to
and they alone
if they choose
a teething, gurning
one year old
who cries in the night
and demands to be soothed
not just once,
but many times
a defiant toddler
who says No before he learns to say
Yes, or please,
who lies on his back on the floor
and kicks his feet and screams
very loudly when he does not
get his own way, and produces
large amounts of tears, snot
and poo, generally into nappies
and eventually, after you have
worked out some sort of system
or read a very clever book, but
probably mostly just listened to your own
mum, into the toilet.
a small child who socialises with
other small children and learns things
from them, not just from you.
Words like bum and fart and other
useful terms for bodily functions
a small child who has to go to school
but may not understand why this is so
who may go there the first day, come home
and say – so, I’ve been there, where do I go tomorrow?
a small child who asks interminable questions,
usually in the car at roundabouts or hazardous crossings
or while you are trying to remember who you are,
where you work and what you should have with you
in order to do that work. A functioning brain is often helpful,
but scarily difficult to retain.
a slightly larger child who likes to have friends round to play
which necessitates conversing with other parents,
which often leads to comparisons which are nearly
always, no in fact are always distinctly unhelpful.
Especially if their smart little Alec can read before
he enters primary 1
So, the slightly larger child sounds a bit easier – yes
and no – they still go to bed largely when you say so
you know where they are all the time , as you have a calendar
strapped to your person at all times so that you don’t forget to
collect them from swimming/judo/karate/piano/French lessons,
but they have by now decided what they do and don’t like to eat.
So you eat what they eat. Do you like being an eight year old again?
No, I didn’t think so. Best to feed then what you have, if you possibly can.
The even larger child is lurching towards being a teenager.
A word that did not exist in recent times.
well, when I was one, I wasn’t. It wasn’t. They weren’t. There weren’t any.
Well, there were, but they didn’t know that they were. If you see what I mean.
Maybe you still are one. And have just had a baby. How scary is that?
So, the teenager emerges from the cocoon of puberty, only they don’t hide
away much. And they’re quite noisy. Play loud music. Assert their rights.
Without taking any responsibility. Treat parents like slaves. Only worse.
But then that’s probably our fault.
And then, eventually, this tiny infant, baby, small child, bigger child, big child, teenager, becomes a …
so, not a baby, then?
no, a lot, lot more than that.
be careful what you wish for.