Musings of The Consciously Incompetent Camel
With my single experience of parenting, I felt like I had suddenly been given the key to universal knowledge about motherhood. I quickly took to the internet to share my revelations thinking they would help thousands and I would be hailed as a hero of (wo)mankind.
Very quickly I realised that babies are not robots and my one experience was just one of many millions of experiences being experienced throughout the land. So, I retreated quickly back into my heavily stained dressing gown and returned to hyperventilating about my latest ‘What should the poo look like?’ and ‘Is my baby at risk because I haven’t a fecking clue what I’m doing?’ Google search.
It is a massive cliché that nothing prepares you. Nothing can. Antenatal classes, although incredibly informative about how to squeeze a large circumference out my chuff, lacked some essential information about life with a baby. For instance, the little red book of torture and the crippling anxiety it causes as you plot your worth on a miniscule graph and that every decision from this moment forward will be heaving in guilt.
I also had difficulty asking for certain advice. Like, what to do with their 'bits'. Girls have scary bits with crevices. Boys have scary bits that point at you way before you even think is possible. My girl was born with the greasy, sticky birth residue all over the place. I found out after making her sore from trying to pick it off, to leave it alone. I also discovered that boys find ‘themselves’ from a very early age and simply will not leave it alone.
I didn't know what I should do with my boy's foreskin and was convinced that Special Ops would come careering through my windows the moment I Googled it. Older generations had even more disturbing anecdotes about what I should do with it. I now know that, by the time boys have finished stretching it, turning it inside out, poking it through the cat flap and trying to lift boxes with it, no intervention is required whatsoever.
My daughter may one day decide to have children of her own. I will, of course, encourage her to seek out professional advice whenever necessary, and know that spending hours holding up a fresh baby turd in front of the computer screen to make comparisons is perfectly normal. However, I do have a few extra nuggets of information I wish to pass on to her in the hope it might make her transition into the hood a little more painless...
A baby has an unnatural ability to find nostrils in the dark of night when you find yourself inadvertently co-sleeping. A toddler has an unnatural fascination with eyeballs which they will poke when you least expect it, giving you a healthy case of pink eye. A school-age child will announce that, that man's beard looks like your armpits in the middle of Tesco. But know that wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, no matter how hard you try to hide, they will find you and they will mount you like a fetid, bedraggled donkey that you are.
#2. Postnatal exercises
The only bit of information I remembered from pregnancy yoga, in the midst of my contractions was, "screaming is a waste of energy." So I mooed like a dying cow instead.
Instead of learning to mimic dying animals, which is only really useful at the very beginning, try to master ninja techniques that will stand you in good stead for several years, such as The Roll Away, Sitting Down Sleeping Baby and Silent Footsteps Over Lego. All absolutely essential to escape after you've spent hours getting the baby/child to sleep so you can enjoy a few seconds of alone time before repeating the whole process again. Or having one of them mount you.
#3. Set the bench mark very low
It is very easy to get carried away with wanting everything to be perfect first time around, to give your child every possible stimulating experience life can throw at it. Just remember though, whatever you do with your first child, you'll have to maintain with your subsequent children (that you accidentally conceive) in the interest of fairness; swimming lessons from 6 weeks old, every club/group/happy clappy sing-a-long, organic home-cooked food, in utero sign language classes, new shoes from Clarks every 14 days, sleep routines, extended maternity leave. Therefore, do the ABSOLUTE minimum. The thousands of pounds you spend on character building in the first few years of their life won't get remembered, that really expensive cot will remain untouched (because they’re too busy mounting you) and after the age of two, they'll refuse to eat anything other than beige food and floor pie regardless of how well you’ve disguised the chia seeds in that bolognaise. What you gain in unexpended guilt will add on at least another four years to your life expectancy.
#4. They will test your sanity
You love them. Of course you do. No-one will deny it. But sometimes, their determination not to sleep, eat any of the food you've prepared or sit on your head whilst you’re trying to have a poo will test your limits. Patience, rage, guilt, repeat will become the standard procedure for each new day, which generally started out with a self-promise of being better a parent after the debacle of the day before.
It is perfectly acceptable, when out of earshot, to spit out expletives under your breath and call them names - and you shouldn't feel guilty about this. It is a gloriously satisfying way to get your own back for the tyrannical existence you now find yourself living in.
They will always manage to make you feel like a hideous parent by asking for a unicorn for Christmas, for a rollercoaster in their back garden or for a plane made of gold to fly them to North America (yes, daughter, you actually asked for these things). And don’t even think about giving them the purple plate with the green cup. Just don’t.
Believe in the brilliant parent you know you can be and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. When I say anyone, I mean your children. They will always tell you otherwise.
And when my daughter tells me it won’t be like that for her, and that I’m exaggerating, I’ll show her all the evidence…I mean memories, I’ve collated over her lifetime and laugh a maniacal laugh whilst slowly side stepping out of the room.