I’m becoming one of those people. You know the kind.
Did you see that? Did you SEE THAT? She smiled! She discovered her hand! She turned her head! She’s sucking her thumb! She just did a big poo!
Yep. That’s me. Swore I would never be one, one of those people, those gushers. Before I had a baby – even when I was heavily pregnant – I said sternly to myself Rachel, a baby is not the centre of the world, CERTAINLY not the centre of everyone else’s world. REMEMBER how dull it is when a woman only opens her mouth to speak about her baby and seems incapable of talking about anything else. REMEMBER that there is a world out there full or non-baby life. REMEMBER that you want to KEEP your friends, especially your friends without children.
But, it has slowly, sneakily crept up on me, all this gushing business. And I’m worried.
Joel tells me I’m becoming a Cat Lady.
Every time he comes home, I have somehow snuck another photo of Ella up on the wall. I don’t even know how it happens. I swear the photos have legs of their own. The negatives march themselves to K-mart and request an on-the-spot development. They are happy to pay that little bit extra because they are just too EXCITED to wait the hour it would take otherwise. They then buy themselves pretty white frames, because everyone needs a pretty, cosy, home-ly home. They jump in the car, drive back, fling themselves into their frames and mount THEMSELVES on the wall. And the worst thing is that this all happens so quickly, I’m incapable of even having the TIME to see it or stop it before Joel comes home, what with all the looking-after-the-baby stuff I have to do.
He calls these photo areas “Shrines”, which is code for “You are becoming obsessed. Please stop, Rachel. Please stop soon.”
I say: But Joel, she’s so cute. She’s just the most BEAUTIFUL thing. LOOK at her!
He says: Yes, I’m looking. She is. But look at this place. Rach, you don’t want to be a Cat Lady.
And then it hits me.
I’ve become one of those people I said I wouldn’t be.
It’s one thing to love. It’s another thing to gush. It’s another thing altogether to brag. And the problem is that there is such a thin, flimsy line between them all that you don’t know where you are on any of the lines any of the time.
I made the mistake the other day of publicly announcing (thankyou, Facebook) that Ella had slept through the night for the very first time, aged 9 weeks. And, now I wished I hadn’t because
1. For God’s sake, not everyone CARES, Rachel
2. I appear to the Outside World to be bragging. Loving. Gushing. Bragging. Whatever. To the Outside World, it all looks the same. And for the record, I HATE parental bragging.
Because what parents who brag don’t realise is that while they may be loving and gushing on the inside, every time they publicly state that Little Timmy is sleeping through, another Outside World Mum feels even worse that hers isn’t. She feels more agitated, more envious, more annoyed. Every time they publicly state that Little Timmy has scored first place in his running event, another Outside World Mum feels grief and guilt and envy that hers is in a wheelchair, physically limited to the confines in which the disability he was born with dictates. Every time they publicly state that Little Timmy says Please and Thankyou, another Outside World Mum feels inadequate that hers isn’t; that maybe she’s doing something wrong. And friends, we don’t need more Mamas feeling like they’re doing something wrong. It’s hard enough as it is.
Yes, you could argue that people should be happy for you. That if they get offended or envious then that’s their issue and their problem. You can’t go around shutting your mouth up and walking on eggshells because you don’t want to upset anyone. But, the sad fact is that parenting has become a competitive sport. There are some parents out there who are CRAZY. Like, are-you-kidding-me-get-me-the-hell-away-from-this-woman kind of crazy. Parenting does strange things to people. So, you’ve GOTTA be sensitive. You’ve GOTTA be aware. You’ve GOTTA choose your words carefully. And you’ve GOTTA be mindful about selecting the people you choose to tell those words to.
So now before an Ella comment comes out of my mouth I ask myself, firstly: Rachel, do they honestly even care? You know, that Ella did a poo. And secondly, will this, to the best of my knowledge, upset them in any way?
Joel and I now have a rule. No bragging in public. All he says to me is Cat Lady and I know I’m mistaking where the line is, again. While we (I) can sit in bed and love and gush and brag until the sun comes up about how our daughter is the best, most beautiful, most amazing thing in the whole wide world, better than any child ever to walk the earth, we (I) keep our mouths shut when facing the Outside World. Unless we’re with Grandparents. Or family. Or VERY close friends. People who would care. And even if they didn’t care, who’d love us enough to see past our obsession and smile anyway.
And to everyone else, this is all I have to say:
Nothing to see here, people. Move along. Just another baby. You seen one, you seen ‘em all.