Everybody loves to give advice and I’m not being ungrateful, I’m sure it will all come in handy (even the stuff that one person says that directly contradicts what another has told us) but I can’t help feeling that some of it is proffered partially as an excuse to recount various war stories from the battlefields of parenthood. It’s the hand that suddenly grips your arm, the glassy eyed expression as they stare deep within your soul, the urgency in the voice as they implore you to “bank your sleep, enjoy your lie-ins while you can. It’s too late for us, leave us here, we’ll only hold you up. Save yourselves!” In fact, I’m fairly sure if someone wrote a parenting pamphlet that just read “you’ve made a right mistake, IT’S HELL!” then they’d make a fortune from parents buying it as Christmas and birthday presents for their expectant friends. So keen are Mums and Dads to monger their general doom that whoever penned this less-than-weighty tome would outsell Gina Ford two-to-one.
“You’ve got all this to look forward to” is a sentence I am hearing with increasing regularity as we hurtle into the third trimester. It comes from beleaguered parents who are fighting that endless battle against the child who doesn’t even know herself why she is crying, from the bloodshot-eyed, sleep deprived Dad of a newborn, from the Mum who’s having to sell a kidney to buy two new car seats for their youngest because their eldest isn’t quite ready to go up to the next size himself in either of the family vehicles.
There is a glint in their eyes and a glee in their voices, a sadistic edge that worries me greatly. If they have to suffer they’re going to darn well enjoy watching me follow in their footsteps, helpless to avoid the pitfalls of every Dad and Mum in the history of all time.
Twas ever thus. It’s a little read passage of the Old Testament when God speaks unto Adam and Eve and says of Cain and Abel “Two young ‘uns so close in age to each other? Oh dear…one will just be getting to sleep as the other screams and wakes them up. Yeah, good luck with that!”
I’ve noticed with more than one set of parents in the room the scare stories are turned up to eleven. Everyone wants to recount the one tale that will knock the socks off anyone else’s lily-livered anecdotes, much like Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen and their tales of waking up, licking the road clean and working for 26 hours a day down the pit. If one child’s not slept for a week, the other couple’s daughter turns green, twists her head round 360 degrees and is remarkably unpleasant to clergymen.
Is there some kind of test before you leave the hospital? “Is your car seat fitted? Cot ready at home? Have you formulated at least three terrifying tales with which to scare your so far childless mates, ensuring they have sleepless nights even considering the concept of parenthood? Good, then off you go”.
Actually that sounds quite fun.
As people keep saying, we’ve got all that to look forward to.