Wren started school this morning and with that, a phase of my life has passed. I have such mixed feelings about it! I can’t say I enjoyed having little babies. Before I had one myself, I imagined cuddling my baby all day, dandling it on my knee, and gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes. No one tells you that the times a small baby is either awake and happy, or asleep and happy, are the minority. Your baby will grizzle, whine and gurn for most of its early life, and you will spend endless hours stood up, rocking it to pacify it…and if you should even think about sitting down, the baby will go off like a rocket. At all costs you must never, ever stop moving, necessitating endless pram-pushing in all weathers. And as soon as you get the baby to sleep, bring the pushchair in side, the postman is almost certainly going to ring the doorbell and wake the baby up. At least this was my experience, but I’ll own, it did get slightly better with each child as I got better at knowing what on earth I was doing!
I remember sitting next to my friend’s great-grandmother at a wedding when Little Owl was a baby and asking her for advice. She was very straightforward about it, “Get on and have another one.” She was right in lots of ways. Having another puts everything into perspective. Is there anything more precious than a first-time parent? I certainly was. She was also alluding to the old adage, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Babies are meant to be born into communities, not cared for exclusively by one person. Ladies, we were never meant to do this alone. My babies were always much more contented when the house was full of hustle and bustle: the radio mumbling away in the background, the clatter of cooking, a visiting grandparent with their nose in the paper and one foot on the bouncer, an older sibling dancing about and randomly shoving interesting things in their direction. I read recently that most parenting theories about humans are based on studies of primates, specifically chimpanzees, who carry their single offspring around for a whole two years. In contrast, studies of human hunter-gatherers from the 60s found that in these societies, a human baby would be cared for by up to thirty-six different adults in the first week of life. A village.
But after the little baby phase is the big baby phase, and the toddler phase, and then, my absolute favourite, three to four years. They are so much fun and such good company at this age. I love their mispronunciations, their wonder, their kindness, and with Wren in particular, their fierceness! Wren has been my most fiercely independent, heartily determined to do everything “mineself”. So I have no worries about her at school. She is a jolly, curious, dinosaur-roaring fireball. As for me…I’m going to dig this big pile of manure at the allotment. Digging always seems to help work through complex feelings!