Baby counterterrorism and aromatherapy

People love babies, don’t they? And what’s not to love? For starters, they can’t talk. A baby isn’t going to drain the life out of you with several minutes of inane conversation. It’ll probably just sick-up some milk on your shoe and then nonchalantly crawl away. Also, they’ve got low entertainment thresholds. Adults are notoriously difficult to impress, but you can usually send a baby into nappy-shitting hysterics with some basic gurning and self-abuse, like maybe hitting yourself in the head with the receiver of a Fisher-Price telephone.

Of course, babies are also adorably cute. You could probably send a mother with a carrycot into a Taliban-held compound in Afghanistan, and before long the insurgents would be completely pacified and playing peek-a-boo behind each other’s beards. Babies bring people together, and make us all talk a bit funny as well (hewwo widdle baba!).

They also have that distinctive ‘baby smell’. It’s the kind of aroma I’d happily fill my lungs with during my morning commute to work, if it were legal (and in no way morally reprehensible) for me to buy a baby from Halford’s and dangle it from my car’s rear view mirror. A pleasant alternative to my Magic Tree (until it craps purée all over my centre console).

So I think we can all agree: babies are great.

Up until a few years ago I was dead against having children. It wasn’t that I was anti-babies as such, I just didn’t feel grown up enough to be responsible for anyone other than myself. There was also the state of the world to consider. I couldn’t knowingly bring a child into a world where there was war and destruction, George W. Bush, detention and torture, George W. Bush, tube trains and buses exploding, George W. Bush, and any number of deadly pathogens that could potentially ravage the world’s population (like SARS and Bernard Matthews Flu).

However, I’m now at an age when most people I know are either on the verge of trying for a baby or already have miniature, dribbling versions of themselves lying about the place. And as I’ve now largely got over my refusal to procreate in a world of violence, greed and injustice, I’m fairly sure I’ll be joining them sometime before I hit 40. My concerns about the state of the world – even though it’s still a rough old place – have since given way to general curiosity about having and raising children. I have questions.

For instance, I’ve always been curious about people’s reactions to the birth of their child. I mean, when fathers witness the miracle of childbirth, are they simply overwhelmed with emotion and intense feelings of love? Or do the odd few have a rare moment of clarity, when their faculties suddenly return, and they think: “Shit. I think my baby might be ugly. It looks a bit like Paul Daniels with a pair of sheer tights pulled over his face. They’re pulling Paul Daniels out of my wife’s vagina! Help!“.

Are parents pre-programmed to adore their newborn offspring regardless? Or do they sometimes fake their exhausted smiles, while they contemplate asking the doctor to continue rummaging around until he delivers something cutesier (perhaps with smaller ears and more of a button nose).

Another thing I wonder about is how easy it is for mothers (or “carers” if you want something non-gender specific) to lose their inhibitions and cynicism after having a baby. For instance, it now seems de rigueur for new parents to take their child to a plethora of activity and development groups, such as ‘Jolly Babies’, which cultivates early social skills, speech development, baby and parent bonding, and rhythm and co-ordination, through music. (Alternatively, there’s ‘Bauer Babies’, which teaches hand-to-hand combat, counterterrorism and weapons handling – to a backdrop of nursery rhymes and aromatherapy.)

From what I can glean, ‘Jolly Babies’ seems like the kind of activity where parents have to leave their cynicism at the door and just surrender to the happy-clappiness of it all. But I’ve wondered lately just how easy that is to do. Going from a regular ‘no baby’ situation – with all your inhibitions and cynicism intact – to singing alliterative gibberish in a roomful of strangers, is a massive leap. How is it done?

Only a few weeks ago a friend of mine was telling me about her time at ‘Jolly Babies’, when she suddenly started singing a song from a recent class she’d been to (it was a bit like watching someone performing an overly enthusiastic rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ for a trigger-happy dictator). There wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with that. It was just that, as I know her to be a wonderfully cynical person with a rapier-like wit (she’s extremely funny), I was sort of weirdly shocked to see her singing a song – like a proper mum – without adding what a load of old bollocks it all was.

But I suppose if she can park her cynicism and just get on with it, then maybe there’s hope for me when I have children. I might even be able to resist the urge to turn off Mr Tumble on CBeebies’ Something Special and sit my baby down in front of Question Time or 6Music instead. Maybe.

Anyway, like I said, I love babies. What’s that? You do too, but you couldn’t eat a whole one. Very funny. Kids love that.



Filed under Babies, Miscellaneous

6 responses to “Baby counterterrorism and aromatherapy

  1. Klare Tootell

    Your ponderings about the ‘Jolly Babies’/inhibition syndrome’/got me pondering myself. As you know, I’m very inhibited and cynical and yet I came home from my first Jolly Babies class floating on air. I think I enjoyed it more than Rufus! I can’t explain what happened to my inhibitions and cynicism, they just melted away aided by the enthusiasm of the class leader and the fact that you’re so focussed on making it a nice experience for your baby, you realise that you don’t give a toss about the fact you’re marching around in a circle singing the Grand Ol’ Duke of York. I genuinely grinned inanely through almost every class because it was such good fun…..this little bundle on my knee was a ticket to revisit being utterly childish and singing loudly and out of tune. What a great job to spend a rainy Monday morning doing the hokey cokey and singing songs that included the lines “let’s all go crrrrrrackers, shaking our maracas!”. Balloons bouncing around on rainbow parachutes and gymnastic style ribbon waving…. I even used to get all emotional when the bubbles came out to a dreamy version of Puff the Magic Dragon. I can’t explain it. You pick your cynicism and inhibitions back up on the way out but for that 30mins, you’re free to be a child with the excuse that you’re doing it for your baby. It’s a little bit like the way Phoebe on Friends runs with arms and legs flailing and says “don’t you ever want to run so madly like you did when you were a child that it feels like your arms and legs are going to fall off?”. Rachel’s inhibitions stop her at first but when she did it, it was liberating. Rufus and I have now proudly graduated to Music With Mummy (the next class up) and it’s still brilliant. I think having a child does force you to lose some of your inhibitions but only ever in a good way. Great blog post again bruv! x

    • andytoots

      Brilliant comment, Sis! A very eloquent response indeed.

      The way you describe ‘Jolly Babies’, I like to imagine all the babies sat around playing cards while the mums run around singing and jumping, and blowing bubbles.

      I’m pleased to hear that you and Ru have now graduated to the next class up. Is the graduation certificate in your name or Ru’s? ;o)

  2. Birth was messy. Caesarian. Saw horrible things. Kids are good fun. I prefer sleep to that of deprivation. If you’re considering kids. Start sleeping now. There won’t be any once they are born!
    I must add that I have 4. 1 stepson, a brilliant lad that even keeps his room tidy. Then DLP (Daddies Little Princess), nearly 18 and identical twin sons, H and J. H is the Villa fan, J supports Birmingham City. It was never going to be easy!

    Whatever the tribulations, it’s worth it. I promise.

    • andytoots

      In spite of having two children who support rival football teams, you sound like a very contented man!

      Like you say, the sleepless nights will be the killer. (Although, it’s not something I have to prepare for just yet.) Sleep now. S-l-e-e-p.

  3. Vicky

    Lovely, thoughtful post, Andy. I distinctly remember my feelings on seeing my daughter when she was first born. I wasn’t overwhelmed by emotion, although possibly a 36 hour, drug-addled, medical intervention-filled labour may have skewed my perception and I was fairly preoccupied with being sick into a cardboard bowl. Neither did I feel any immediate or instinctive love for her in the way so often portrayed in films . I remember staring at her squashed and bruised face and saying ‘Oh. That’s who you are’. I’m not quite sure who I was expecting. Maybe I thought I’d recognise her somehow.
    The love came within about a week. We had visitors one day and the girlfriend, whom I barely knew, left the room while she was holding Lois. A tangible wave of primeval protective instinct flooded over me. Like a mother bear defending her cub from a predator, I snatched her back and locked myself in the bedroom and howled. They left soon after!
    Your points about the baby classes rang amusingly true. I thought your sister’s response was lovely, but I must say there were quite a few baby oriented activities that I tried with rather too much over-animated cooing or or prancing about and to be honest I just felt like a massive tit. You have to find your comfort zone. Mostly you tend to recognise the pained glints in the eyes of a few other parents who are suppressing the fact they also feel like a massive tits. Thus lifelong friendships are often born.

    • andytoots

      A typically lovely comment, Vicky. I must admit, your experience of labour sounds absolutely horrendous. No wonder it took a week for the love for Lois to fully transpire, it must have taken you that long simply to recover!

      It’s interesting that your feelings of love coincided with a sudden rush of protective maternal instinct. That girl who was visiting you must have wondered what the hell she’d done! No wonder she made a swift exit.

      And you’re right about the friendships that are born when mothers attend baby development classes. I know my sister has made some very good friends over the last couple of years, which she may well now have for life.

      Babies, eh? Bringing people together…one excruciatingly painful 36-hour labour at a time!

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