I Love My Son. But I Have No Patience with Babies.
It’s been seven months since my son was born, and I don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone more. But with every passing day, it’s becoming clearer that I’m really not a Baby Person.
Sounds awful, I know. And no, I’m not going through postpartum depression or having bonding issues. I do everything in my power to keep my son safe and cool (in this blistering summer heat), but I often find I just cannot do more.
I cannot coo at him. My ‘faces’ aren’t half as funny as those around me. I sing to him, often my favourite: This Old Man who plays one on a thumb and seven up in heaven. I’ve even written my own tunes — Who Made a Big Poo, It was you! It was you! and My Sweet Susu Boy — but he much prefers my husband’s tone-deaf renditions of pop songs. I also don’t have the patience to respond to his monosyllabic gibberish, even though it’s the cutest thing in the world.
His grandparents, on the other hand, are an encyclopedia of chitter-chatter, faces and noises, songs and dance and entertainment. His father, too, has special moments with him, tickling or playing peek-a-boo, that make him giggle and shout in glee. Meanwhile, my halfhearted raspberries leave him cold.
You know the worst part of admitting that you’re not a Baby Person? It isn’t the fear that you’re being an awful mother or the constant wondering if your child loves you. It isn’t even saying, “Bye bye, I’ll see you in a few hours,” only to realise your son has looked away before you even shut the office door.
What’s truly difficult to come to terms with, when you’re a mother who isn’t adept at entertaining her baby, is the realisation that you’re actually fine with it.
So what if I’m not a rock star like Daddy, or a clown like Nani? I’m good at other things. I enjoy feeding my son – both on the high chair and the other 18 times on demand (the hog). I live for bath time. I also enjoy dressing him in cool, new clothes even though he’d much rather chat with the wall than with me while I’m putting on his pants. I smell his diapers at least once every hour, and when that elusive, newly-on-solids-so-very-smelly poop arrives, I dance around the house because it means I don’t have to use a suppository after all.
I even love walking him up and down the aisle when he’s being “that baby” on a flight – because I love my son. But I don’t love playing. Nor do I love carrying him around the house or walking him around the garden to greet the neighbour’s kids. And because of that, there’s always someone better than me out there, someone with more patience and perseverance.
A few years ago, I was a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding. During the transfer from the church to the reception venue, we had the little flower girls on the bus with us. They were all toddlers and ignored me for most part, talking with all the other bridesmaids who played silly games that little kids love and sang them all their favourite princess songs. I was happy to sit quietly in the back, tummy rumbling, fantacising about the feast that awaited us.
But when we reached the venue and were ushered to the stage like cattle, I suddenly felt a little hand grab mine. It was one of the flower girls.
“Aunty,” she said, close to tears. “Will you please take me potty?”
Wait, what? Why me? Why not one of the other girls with whom she’d come to be best friends? Why not her Mummy?
“I don’t know where my Mummy is,” she told me, now almost crying.
I looked at the other bridesmaids, performance smiles painted on their faces, and I wondered what I had done to instill this little girl with confidence that I could help her solve what must have been the biggest problem of her life so far. I came up empty, but I’m not one to look the other way. I did what needed to be done: I got up in the middle of the best man’s speech and took the little girl to find her mother.
Maybe that’s how it is with my son, too. I may not be a Fun Mum who sings songs on the bus. But when that frown appears, as it usually does after enough giggle time, signaling the need for a feed, a nap, or even potty, it’s me he seeks in the clutter and crowd, my arms he wants around him. That’s how I know it’s okay that I’m not a Baby Person: because my son knows that, when it comes to things that really matter in life, he can rely on me to be a Baby’s Person.