Some of my dear friends may already be aware that the maternal instinct thing fortunately passed me by. That's if you even subscribe to the theory of maternal instincts as opposed to cultural gender indoctrination.
Which, put simply, means women are bombarded with endless messages from the moment they are old enough to think, that their main role and function in life is as a breeding machine. Having children is the most wonderful and fulfilling experience ever and that is what we all live for.
Well, I don't and neither do countless others so the propaganda got lost somewhere along the line. I have never found ugly wrinkly babies remotely appealing. Give me a puppy, a donkey, a baby chicken, anything really apart from an ugly wrinkly baby that will grow up into an obnoxious person. Probably an ugly wrinkly obnoxious person. And as for thinking they will look after you in your dotage? Hmmm strikes me as a) amazingly selfish and b) amazingly naive.
As I reached adulthood my views didn't change. I still didn't find babies or young children cute, appealing or interesting. I did however, not dislike the early teens type kid that seemed to suffer all the problems of adolescence. Not young enough to be cute any more but not old enough to be treated as an adult. So I would make time to speak to this somewhat ignored group if they came my way.
I've never understood why people speak differently to children compared with how they do to adults. Hopefully the ghastly talking down to kids thing has decreased over the years. As far as I could see, they were all small people and deserved the same respect and the same type of conversation that big people got. Like big people, if little people came out with smart comments to me they would get one back.
When the first of my university friends finally had a baby I dutifully started knitting a cute matinee coat. If the baby got chance to wear it once I would be surprised as it took me that long to finish it. Even knitting baby clothes was boring as hell despite the smallness of the coat. All in all my friend was pretty good with me when I went to visit and admired the latest designer acquisition. She didn't get annoyed when I called it 'It'. (It was a boy actually). Nor did she bat an eyelid when I screwed up my nose as she efficiently changed a nappy.
Naturally she went on to have a girl next. One of each. We visited her parents one New Year and I spent most of the time playing on the floor with the toddler. As she grew up, I spent time with her in her bedroom, playing with the cat, the hamster and painting our nails together. Mummy was out at pilates or something like that. The young daughter was easy to get on with and I enjoyed her company. No idea what she is like now in her very late teens.
Another couple of friends (again from my university days) had their two - one of each again - somewhat later in life, so when I visited them a few years ago, the two children were still junior school age. They were nice too. Interesting, polite, friendly, well-behaved - and I was asked to read a bed-time story to the boy. I wouldn't have volunteered because there is nothing worse than sticking your nose in where it's not wanted, and being rejected. But always happy to read stories, so that was fun.
On the same trip, I visited other friends. The teenage son was out but the daughter (sixth form) was at home. Again, easy company, loads to talk about, and an interesting and pleasant young woman. None of those friends pushed their kids in my face - at any age. But equally, their children were not ignored while I was there, they were treated with attention and the same amount of respect as an adult. Their parents took time with them, explained things, talked to them sensibly, and from my incredibly inexperienced point of view, seemed to be the sort of parents one would want.
I like my friends, and fortunately - I happened to like their children. Accepting someone's children is a bit like accepting their partner. They are - presumably - the most important people in their world, and you want to get on with them because you like your friend (s). Just like you don't expect your friends to settle with terrible partners, you don't expect their offspring to be vile creatures.
People know I am more interested in dogs than children. For virtually all our married life we have had dogs. If friends don't like dogs they don't need to visit. That includes Mother-In-Laws (Mothers-in-Law?) from hell too. And it is really impressive when someone asks you to stay, and says that you can bring the dogs of course. How totally considerate. Although preferably not to be shut up in a cupboard at night a la MILFH.
Some years ago one of our British friends came to visit us in Spain. He's always had a cat but has been pretty wary of our dogs, or to be more accurate, the German Shepherd. As we sat in the patio, Prince settled down happily next to Andy. "I've never really got this close to him before," said Andy. "Are you sure it's the same dog? He's quite nice really." Give me an old dog before a baby any day.
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- ► 2009 (51)