I feel I ought to confess something. Before The Boy (and subsequently, The Girl) came along, I was not someone who could ever be described as ‘maternal’. Babies and children were of absolutely no interest to me at all. I knew people had them, I knew there was stuff you had to do stop them crying, and help them grow, and it wasn’t a good idea to drop them, but the whole world of babies, toddlers, and children was pretty damned distant. I didn’t actively dislike them, or anything like that, I just really wasn’t interested.
Then I found out I was pregnant with The Boy, Alistair and I kind of looked at one another and shrugged and said ‘Why not?’ And became parents.
I’d read a lot of books and magazines, and online articles, and leaflets, and joined mumsnet and all that jazz. I knew all there was to know. By which I mean I was utterly clueless, had never changed a nappy, or knew anything about the situation I found myself in. Bit like a lot of parents. But we muddled through, and made it up as we went along, and via an awful lot of trial and error, we ended up at the six month stage where things kind of calm down a bit, and you allow yourself the tiniest hope that you’re somehow doing ok.
And then. Weaning. Back to square one.
The hours spent cooking, mashing, freezing various organic delicacies. The careful check of temperature. The selection of today’s attractively decorated plastic tableware. The preparation of the dining area, involving bibs, several metres of plastic sheeting, a welding helmet, and evacuation of all sentient creatures. Already exhausted, you gird your loins. And prepare for battle.
The pursed lips. The refusal to make eye contact. The turn of the head at the last moment, so whatever bright orange food was being offered ends up smeared across the cheek of your Precious Firstborn. The hand that shoots out to bat away the spoon, so the high chair tray ends up streaked with something lumpy and bland, all the better to wash infant hands with. The utter hilarity this induces in one of those present, made all the funnier when carrot puree is applied to hair. The inexplicable blobs of food on the floor that you stand in with bare feet. The open-mouthed puzzlement of noticing that there are odd marks on the ceiling that turns out to be baby rice.
It should be so simple. Get food. Feed food to baby. Baby fed. Job done. But no, you have to mash it up, and make it FUN and EASY and SIMPLE and do all sorts of undignified cavorting to persuade your child to just eat ‘ Dinner! You don't like that spoon? Try this one. No? Ok... you hold that spoon, and I'll use this one... The bowl is wrong? I'll change it. That bib's annoying you? You want the one with Slomo Turtle on? Ok. Now. Eat. Eat the food I am offering. Here. On this spoon. No, actually it’s an aeroplane/train/boat/rocket/what? Ok, yes it’s a bear going back into his cave…
I did not enjoy very much of the spoonfeeding years. Once things had progressed to the point where The Blondies could eat finger foods, or even feed themselves, we were all much happier. I was content to sit and help as required, but the patience shredding hours of gamely offering something that was going to be rejected and messy were over.
Or so I thought…
Something I’m noticing a lot of lately is people wanting to know things. This is good. Curiosity is a wonderful thing. It might get you into a lot of trouble, but you’ll definitely have fun on the way. But this isn’t motivated curiosity. This isn’t people saying ‘ooh! I’ve just found out this thing! I want to know MORE. I’m going to go out and find out some more thing about this thing.’ No. This is curiosity of the absolute most lazyarsed kind. This is people wanting to be fed spoonfed information, when there is an absolute FEAST of detail already widely available to them. The conversations seem to go something like this:
Person A: X
Person B: What is X?
A: X is blah blah blah, X blah.
B: What does X mean?
A: X means Y.
B. Oh. What is Y? I don’t know anything about this, but it’s fascinating.
A: Y is Y.
B: What does Y mean?
A: Y means blah blah Y blah, blah. Y blah.
B: What do you think Y is?
A: Y. is. Y.
B: I think, based on no obvious evidence, that X & Y *actually* mean Z.
A: No, Z’s something quite different; see this link that covers A-Z.
B: Is it? What’s X? What’s Y? What’s Z?
And then there is, of course,
B: Who knows anything about X?
A: I do. Here’s a link that will tell you more about it.
A: Right. Tell me everything you’ve spent time finding out, and then answer my 30 questions about X, all of which are covered in the FAQs of the link you just provided.
(And in every case, me in the background, just about managing to restrain myself from bellowing ‘LET ME GOOGLE THAT FOR YOU.’)
I know I’m guilty of it at times, that I do sometimes take the piss with questions, and that I let my embarrassing amount of enthusiasm for certain things get the better of me and bombard people with ‘OH MY GOD THAT’S BRILLIANT AND BLOODY HELL I NEVER KNEW THAT WOAH.’ But… (she said weaselly, attempting to wriggle out a trap of her own making), I’d rather go off, read up on X, and then come back to Person A with ever so slightly more informed questions, if they don’t mind, can they point me to any further reading, please thank you please? Generally, information on most things is out there, fairly easy to find, quite accessible, even to thickos like me. It might take a bit more effort than sitting on your arse firing questions out to the world, but it doesn’t use up too much goodwill.
And it doesn’t remind me of patiently sitting, plastic spoon in hand, offering up mush to someone who will only accept it if presented a certain way, in a certain style, that suits them. Much better to grab the finger food instead and see how you get on. Someone will be along to wipe your face for you later.*
*My blog. I can labour an idea until it squeals. No, you piss off.