By Anna Trevelyan
If you ever want to work with children (whom you’ll be responsible for for a few hours at a time) you’ll probably require training, enhanced CRB checks, and need qualifications of some sort. If you want to HAVE children (whom you’ll be fully responsible for for years and years), well – you can be any old idiot.
Sadly the below list isn’t exhaustive. I’m a classic example of someone with zero experience looking after my own child. Children don’t come with any instructions, but here are some lessons I’ve learned through experiencing a few epic fails along the way…
Last weekend wasn’t the first time I had rammed the car full of paraphernalia for almost every eventuality – but forgotten my toddler’s shoes. We bounded out of the car after a long drive, ready to walk along a nature trail, when I suddenly remembered. Not to be put off, I cunningly found a hut with ‘lost property’, and a kind staff member let us borrow some spare wellies. Said wellies turned out to be stonking-great things that honked to high heaven. My little boy resembled a deep sea diver – clomping through puddles with rank wellies that were practically the size of mine – and much to the disapproval of posh passing parents who had apparently never forgotten anything before.
When my boy was a baby I tried to be relaxed about him putting stuff into his mouth. ‘It’s how they learn‘, I was told. Not wanting to be neurotic parent, I didn’t panic too much when he stuck a leaf onto his tongue in the park. Next thing I knew he was choking on it, and my extremely glamorous cousin watched in horror as I banged him on the back (freeing the leaf, hooray) but him them vomiting all over me and my white top. I had to carry him all the way home (about a mile), covered in vomit, and that was the end of his leaf-licking days.
Learning to talk can be tricky, and sometimes you just can’t say ‘L’. Sadly, this makes the pronunciation of innocent words (like clock) sound pretty rude. I don’t mind this, but sometimes I forget when we are in public. Recently we found ourselves in a busy shop and I, not thinking, pointed out the giant clock on the wall to my little boy. I hadn’t considered the salesman sitting at the desk directly underneath it. “What’s that?” I asked my toddler. He immediately pointed and shouted “clock!” (but without the ‘L’). Safe to say, people stared. Mainly the man sitting underneath the clock, thinking we meant him, so we made yet another swift exit.
Going long-haul with a toddler who had just learned to walk was not a pleasant experience. At all. I thought I was prepared: bringing books, snacks, silent toys and ear plugs for fellow passengers, plus choosing a night flight so that he could sleep. Sadly, he had finally learned to get up and walk alone a few weeks before. Let’s just say that the flight was not only the longest plane journey of my life but it seemed longer than my ACTUAL life has been so far. He did NOT want to sit down, let alone sleep. So I spent the entire time (there and back) hoofing up and down the plane with him trying to tickle people’s toes and sneak into first class. He must get it from his father.
We walk a lot, and I try to let him be fairly free to get muddy and play in puddles. However, I don’t think I’ll let him play in a ditch again. What he was happily jumping up and down in, shouting ‘mud!’, actually turned out to be a steaming pile of dog turds that someone had deposited there in the shape of a mole hill. Whipping him out was also a bad idea, as we were then both covered in turd, and had to slop home hoping nobody saw, touched or smelled us.
I’m no longer paying for things that I think he will need/like, which actually he doesn’t need/like. I recently forked out a ridiculous amount to let him go on a ride which, after 5 seconds, he wanted to get off of. I ended up squeezing my freezing derrière into the stupid seat just so that I hadn’t totally wasted all my parking money. Parental guilt makes you buy things that you don’t need, and I’m not falling for it any more. I understand now why my dad once announced “if you still want it next year I’ll consider it”. (That said, I’m still waiting for my pony.)
I think I must be fairly forgetful. On occasions I have left the house without vital supplies (such as nappies). Once I accidentally grabbed my work bag on the way out, rather than the nappy bag, and was caught short quite a long way from home. With nobody I knew there to borrow a nappy from I resorted to cracking out my work first aid kit and using the saline eye wash, some leaves, a sling and a few bandages to tide us over. This bit of handiwork, which I was quite proud of, drew quite a crowd. Someone even took a photograph. I’m probably on a forum somewhere with ‘world’s worst parent’ emblazoned underneath my sheepish-looking face.
Next phase fail
A little-known parenting fact: children sometimes regress. Just when you think ‘great! They can do that! We don’t need all this stuff any more‘ they’ll go back to how they were. Thinking back, I really shouldn’t have put that highchair away so soon (cue running around in the middle of mealtimes as they are no longer strapped down), or ditching the buggy prematurely because they can now walk (getting stranded miles from home with a toddler who suddenly wants to be carried, plus their truck, a football, a picnic and your own giant handbag isn’t much fun, but it greatly amused the smug BT man fixing something at the end of our road. Shame he wasn’t hanging around on the ‘turd ditch’ day as we could have paid him a visit).
The silver lining of all these fails is that you never make those mistakes again. (Well, almost never. I’m not sure where that nappy bag actually is right now.) Plus you’ll discover a new-found resourcefulness that you never knew you had. It makes me feel like a slightly amnesic Ray Mears, fighting my way through the parenting jungle with only my anti-bac and a few leaves to help me. And of course (so long as no one goes and needs first aid at my work) it all turned out OK in the end.