Ever had somebody’s umbilical cord fall into your lap? This is the sort of thing they don’t tell you about when they’re extolling the joys of becoming a parent or grandparent. Economists have a technical term for this, and that is ‘hidden costs’. Have you ever had a kid tell you that you’re an ugly old woman/man and that you will shortly go blind? That’s what you can expect if you’re planning to have more than one kid. The technical term for that is ‘sibling rivalry’.
There’s a new baby in the family, and she looks like a fuzzy, plump little fruit you could bite into and have delicious pink juice run down your chin, assuming you’d recovered your appetite after the umbilical cord episode. Babies are tiny, beautiful miracles of nature, especially if they belong to other people and you just get to play with them moodily while you’re visiting for a couple of days. As the poet said, “trailing clouds of glory do we come/From God, who is our home:/Heaven lies about us in our infancy!” His immortal poem goes on to skip over some other things that lie about us in our infancy, like the nuclear explosion of a bowel movement that can follow a baby’s two-week bout of constipation. For the uninitiated, do not assume that you could not possibly find fallout all the way up the back of the baby’s neck, and also possibly your own.
But there’s no doubt that having multiple children is a joy. They’ll be there to comfort you in your old age, to change your adult diapers and wipe up your drool and steer you in the right direction when you’re trying to walk into a wall, or a stranger’s house. You just have to get past the stage where you’ve brought them up, paid for their college education, and successfully kicked them out of your house.
There are, by the way, no guarantees these days that this will be a successful enterprise. As The New York Times recently wrote, at what I consider to be unnecessary length, kids just don’t seem to want to grow up and get their own place any more. I wouldn’t know anything about that, of course, but I do have this middle-aged friend who writes a weekly column that often features the mother whose house she still lives in.
Anyway, your children will ease you into old age and, when you’ve finally passed on to that great PTA meeting in the sky, they will have each other. They just have to get past the stage where the baby’s two-year-old brother tenderly murmurs “I like it the Baby Aadya” and then tries to poke out her eyes and yank her limbs from their sockets; which is also the stage when her six-year-old sister accuses you of negligence and says that you will become paralysed and your brains will fall out unless you play with her instead.
I’m going to visit my multifarious nieces and nephew at the end of the month. I love them to death, but it’s a good thing that these tender little blossoms grow in someone else’s garden. Some people are good at the endless hard work, selflessness and patience that come with gardening. I’m not saying I’m not one of them. It’s just that I’d rather gnaw off my own arm and slither over a bed of nails through sniper fire.
Plus, I figure that if I catch them young, I can brainwash them into believing that it’s only natural, after changing your parents’ diapers, to change your aunt’s.