Well, as of this week I’ve been at this parenting gig for five years. In most vocations this would probably put me in a position of some seniority. I’d be a specialist, or at least be competent enough to work without direct supervision. Sadly, five years of parenthood has not rendered me an expert. On the contrary, I now have more questions than when I started. Here’s a few:
1. Babies and food. Specifically, by what sorcery do they know to wake up at precisely the nanosecond that a hot plate of food hits the table in front of their primary caregiver? And more to the point, WHY? Surely this doesn’t serve the species well in an evolutionary sense, having the already sleep-deprived parent (Oh, let’s just say it: the mother) made listless and weak from malnutrition? Babies. No reasoning with them.
2. Preschoolers and food. How can they maintain such insane energy levels and actively resist sleep when they seem to ingest only sultanas and thin air for days at a time? I’m lightheaded by 10am if I haven’t at least had a piece of toast. I guess it’s been a while since I was four.
3. Attention to detail. How is it that a small child can detect the tiniest shred of onion in a meal, but will be completely unable to find a pair of shoes – even if they’re right in front of him, in the same spot they always are, while he’s being told to look right there, RIGHT THERE NEXT TO YOUR FOOT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD… Sorry. That’s a very specific example from my place.
4. Mucus and love. Why does the onset of a virus coincide with a sudden desire for physical affection? I’m not talking about the sick, miserable kid who needs extra snuggles. I’m talking about the human ball of snot and saliva who suddenly wants to kiss on the mouth, rub noses together, and gaze lovingly into your eyes from a distance of not more than 2.5 centimetres. May also want to lie on your pillow and cough into it, because germs = love.
5. Babies and smells. How do they simultaneously smell so good and so bad, depending which end you’re approaching from? The smell of sunlight on the crown of an infant’s head has to be the most intoxicating aroma in the world – one whiff of a newborn’s melon and my ovaries start jingling like bells (I actually made myself clucky by sniffing my own daughter’s head when she was a couple of weeks old; that’s how crazy-good this smell is). Flip em over though, and somehow they’ve taken the blandest diet imaginable served in the smallest possible quantities and transformed it into a stink and mess of such epic proportions it’ll make your eyes water and your hair stand on end. It’s possibly the most effective antidote to newborn-head-smell-induced broodiness. Handy.
6. Kids and trying new things. They’ll happily sample playdough, interestingly shaped gravel, something they found in the window track, cat biscuits, or the contents of their own ear. But a lovingly-prepared meal with ingredients other than ham, corn or pasta spirals? No thanks. Someone’s going to end that meal in tears. (Hint: it might not be the kids. It’s demoralising to spend time and money preparing, say, a nice bit of salmon only to have your beloved look at you as if you’ve just tried to poison them and demand baked beans instead).
7. Kids and that thing they do in their sleep. You know the one I mean. The one where they sneakily make you forget all the horrible things they did that day, just by falling asleep and transforming themselves back into peaceful little cherubs with incredibly soft cheeks and eyelashes, breathing sweetly and causing no mayhem. It’s a highly effective survival mechanism, and that’s the best explanation I can come up with. I love my kids awake, but I love them beyond imagining when I watch them sleep. How do they do it? Just one more of the mysteries of childrearing.