There were many things I swore I would never do before I had a baby.
Most of them were things that other people did that unintentionally annoyed me, as someone who was desperate for a baby, and as a member of the public frequently forced to take public transport. Others were merely naive reflections of the lofty ideals I held about what a perfect parent I would be, and how wise and wonderful any potential children of mine were certain to be.
Pretty much all of those ideals have long since fallen by the wayside, along with any last vestiges of sympathy for the physical and emotional comfort of the child free in public spaces. The following is not an exhaustive list.
1.) I was going to buy my future child lots of cuddly toys-and they would all be true to life representations of the various different species that walk among us on Planet Earth, so that I could teach my adoring offspring the names and various physical features of ALL THE LOVELY ANIMALS. It would be like Noah’s Ark, but completely scientific and entirely anatomically correct.
What actually happened: After perusing the interwebs for hours looking for toy alpacas and okapis, the first toy I bought my yet to be born son, during my pregnancy, was a Moomin from the Moomin Shop. A completely anatomically correct Moomin, I’m sure, but nonetheless definitely a fictional creature. After he was born he received a toy giraffe as a present, and convinced it was a strange-looking orange spotty cow, I called it “Space Cow.” Finally, I realised that he had absolutely zero interest in cuddly toys of any kind, and abandoned the whole idea.
2.) I would never be caught boasting about the achievements of my child on Facebook. Not even the tiniest, weeniest little humblebrag. Then he got a badge at the end of his first term of swimming lessons, and despite the fact that all he had to do to earn it was “enter the pool safely” (he was three months old. I carried him into the pool. I EARNED THAT BADGE) it was all over Facebook in seconds. I was the mother of a child with a badge, people, and you were damn well going to hear about it.
3.) I was going to feed my child nothing but healthy food, ALL THE TIME.
What actually happened: I invested heavily in this one. I bought books, I slavishly followed NHS guidelines on exclusive breastfeeding and weaning at six months and not before. Despite having literally no idea how they worked out this statistic, I had read that only a tiny one per cent of babies were exclusively breastfed until the age of six months, and I was going to make sure that we were in that one per cent, if it was the last thing I did. We got there, I celebrated with a pat on the back for me and the metaphorical Public Badge of Good Motherhood, only to find that my son had no interest in solid food whatsoever. Now, at the age of almost two, the things he will eat can be pretty much listed on the fingers of one hand, and top of that list is ice cream.
4.) I will speak to and read to my child all the time, and by the age of two their speech will be eloquent and their vocabulary extensive.
What actually happened: I tried with this one, I really did, but unless things move very quickly in the next week, we are stuck with “ball” and “oh no.” So much for taking after his mother, who according to a well-known (possibly apocryphal) family story, was conversing fluently with the babysitter on the merits of BBC current affairs programmes by eighteen months.*
5.) I would never be That Parent on public transport. You know, the one with the child who is screaming. The one with the child who won’t sit down. The one with the pushchair that they haven’t quite learned to fold down yet. The one offering biscuits as a bribe to get the child to sit still/stop screaming/stop throwing things.
Reader, I am That Parent.
And what have I learned from breaking all of my own rules? I have learned that it is folly indeed to judge before you have walked a mile in the sensible shoes of motherhood. That the child you have might not be the one you imagined you’d have; the one who loved to drink kale smoothies and eat organic goji berries, and just loved learning about All The Animals In The World via the medium of cuddly toys. And that is all part of the joy of parenthood.
*I told her that Margaret Thatcher was my grandmother. She isn’t, people. Don’t hate me. It was an innocent mistake.
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