This apology is addressed to parents up and down the land and across the seas. Parents that I encountered or knew before I joined their club- before I realised just what they were up against. It’s an apology for a period in time when I did unthinkably awful things. Terrible things. Things that, at the time, I didn’t realise were bad. I would like to atone for these now.
For the times I saw your little ones staring into space from the depths of the pram, eyelids drooping and heavy, a gnats whisker away from sleep… and I attracted their attention with an enthusiastic wave and a funny face, jolting them back awake with a giggle, I am sorry. I understand now that your glares in my direction and snarls as you passed weren’t because you were ‘moody gits’ or suffering from sense-of-humour failures, as I thought. They were because you’d been pushing that sodding pram in the pouring rain for over an hour, and finally your efforts were paying off. And then this young, clueless imbecile had come along and cocked it all up in an instant- and THEY got to waltz off afterwards and have a glass of wine, or go shopping, or something equally frivolous, whilst you had to go to Baby Bounce-and-Bloody-Rhyme. I’m sorry. Truly, I am.
For the times I rolled my eyes not-so-discretely when your infant was wailing like a banshee in a restaurant/cafe/pub, or huffed a little too loudly when a toddler nearly took out my ankles whilst playing enthusiastically with a fire truck as I was walking to my table with tray in hand. I thought you didn’t notice or possibly even care that they were being loud or boisterous. But now I see you were just trying to get them under control as discretely as possible whilst keeping your sh*t together, rather than dramatically over apologising to everyone around you for effect. This was pretty crappy behaviour on my part.
For EVER saying things like “When I have kids, I’ll never… give them a dummy/ feed them to sleep/ let them dictate my schedule/ let them scream in public, etc”. I realise now that these were utterly knobbish things to say- I have tried to get Pickle to take a dummy repeatedly since 2 weeks in, despite the fact she point blank refuses. I’ve tried everything short of dipping it in sugar. I persevere in a vain attempt to make my life a tiny bit easier, but to no avail. I am genuinely jealous of parents whose babies take dummies now. I regularly feed her to sleep as often it’s the only guaranteed way that I get any rest. My days revolve exclusively around when (and if) she’ll nap, when she needs to eat, what activity she’s doing next, etc. I also now realise that when they want to, they will scream whether you ‘let’ them or not- you have no bloody say in this whatsoever. And some times it’ll be all you can do to keep your head and not burst into tears as people around you stare, and the really knobby ones tut. I whole heartedly apologise, I really do.
For the times I tried to engage your baby in babbles and coos, and attempted to catch your eye with an ‘isn’t-your-child-gorgeous’ smile, and you pressed on past me, eyes fixed ahead, and I assumed you were icy and a bit rude- I now realise you were likely knackered, drained and sleep deprived. You probably didn’t even notice the well meaning stranger as you battled through the Saturday shoppers, counting the hours of sleep you didn’t get last night, planning your strategy about how the hell you’re going to make it through the rest of the day in one piece. I regularly have days like this, and don’t deal with them with nearly as much grace or good natured smiles as I’ve seen others manage. So again, I’m sorry.
For the times your little one came over and fell in love with my ludicrously tiny dog, cuddling and kissing him incessantly, and I jokingly suggested maybe they ask Santa for one whilst smiling at you, and you scowled back… I can now imagine the ensuing months of nagging, tantrums, constant pleas for a doggy, whilst you cursed that bloody woman and her stupid dog that started this whole nightmare. I apologise unreservedly.
For the times I thought that you were ‘losing yourself’ when we went out for coffee and all you seemed to talk about was how your baby had mastered ‘this’ skill, or how you were struggling with ‘that’ element of parenting- I’m sorry for my callousness. I just didn’t get it; how all consuming having a child is, how it takes over your whole world. Many parents manage to keep their own identity flourishing alongside bringing up their little ones, but to me this is an incredible achievement rather than run-of-the-mill. I have been completely engulfed by my little person, including the good and the bad stuff that comes with them; the utter pride when she smiled for the first time, the raging self doubt that seems to accompany decision I make for her, and the thing I’ve learned on this journey is that support from friends has been completely vital. So, I’m sorry I didn’t hold up my end of the friend-bargain in these instances. I get it now.
And finally (and this is the BIG one), I am so sorry for all the garish, plastic, louder-than-hell, musical monstrosities masquerading as ‘toys’ that I have bought for your little ones over the years. I am so, so, so sorry. I now know that these bloody things don’t tend to have off switches (WHY?!). I learned this mainly by stumbling over them in the 3 am darkness with a screaming, teething child in my arms, swearing as the sodding thing flashes and squawks for what feels like three weeks and my head feels like it’s going to explode. I beg for your forgiveness on this one. After Pickle’s first christmas we are now the proud owners of a fair few of them- karma I’m sure for the times I’ve inflicted this evil on others. Just so you know, I am paying the price now. Ten. Bloody. Fold.
So, to you all, those I know and those I don’t, I am sorry for thinking I knew. Because, quite frankly, I didn’t have a bloody clue.
You’re all legends.