The best stories started up as we were gathering to leave, as the best stories often do. There’s something about the farewell process, after a get-together, that brings out one final spark from us. Plans and ideas suddenly come forth, we hear the shadiest and most risqué tales, and the ‘fess-up-time stories get told.
We were having a baby shower. We’d done all the usual stuff of eat, drink, play games, and made a fuss of the pregnant person. Inevitably, there were jokes, all the usual questions asked of the parents-to-be, and both spoken and unspoken delight at another little person coming into the fold. No gender-reveal at this shindig, though – that is remaining a surprise for everyone, parents included, until the day it pops its head out into the world, or rather pops its nether-regions out.
It’s a funny thing about baby showers, or at least the micro handful I have been to, they’re not as dire as I expect them to be. In fact, they’ve been quite a pleasant few hours. Dare I even say, fun? I wouldn’t say that too loudly, though, in case the two I’ve actually been to were exceptions. As a child-free person by choice, I don’t quite know how to share the same sort of excitement in the event as those who already have children, or want to have them. Still, the actual parties themselves haven’t been too bad.
As our outdoor party began breaking up on this particular baby-shower day, and we shuffled towards the gate to take our leave, the baby-drama stories began. I was torn between “Oh shit, how many of these do I have to listen to before we can go”, and being fascinated by them, along with the understanding of how amazing mothers actually are. And how amazing it is that so many babies make it through to adulthood in one piece.
There’s this thing that happens when we get older – many things, really, some of which don’t need to be explained – whereby our sense of the world and people seems to sharpen. I see mothers, or those who do most of the ‘heavy lifting’ around child-care, as being fairly feckin’ remarkable now. That wasn’t always the case, because I was socialised to think that mothering wasn’t anything much to write home about. Women just didn’t get accolades for that. I still have a limited attention span for the stories of their ‘amazing’ children, but if the story is about the amazing mother, narrow escapes and hair-raising situations, I’m definitely more interested these days. So, this time I managed to listen to baby-drama stories with an ear to just how precarious this mothering business is.
And what stories they were! Babies falling off benches, face-planting the gravel, and being dropped. Then there were the toddlers who disappeared in the blink of an eye, only to be found again in the middle of a busy road. Or the one sitting against a stove when the jam boiled over in a nano-second, and the jam missing the tiny tot. What about the littlie, too, who climbed the ladder up to the garage roof, and only just got caught in time by dad as he fell, and before he hit the ground. My niece with the twins had the best baby-drama stories though, because a mother simply doesn’t have enough eyes and arms for two babies at a time. While she is changing the nappy on one, the other is eating poos. While she is busy saving one from a life-threatening situation, the other is getting into a life-threatening situation. What does she do? Which one does she save? Somehow, she worked it out, because the twins are both still here.
Why did I find these stories fascinating now? Because, as I mentioned earlier, my sense of the world and people has sharpened as I’ve become older. I finally see mothers for the phenomenal frontline fighters they are, from those who nail it, to those who mother without much in the way of natural mothering skills. If there are fathers out there doing the real hard yards with kids like mothers do, ‘onya.
Often men’s heroic deeds are seen as more heroic, if we’re giving them a score, due to their greater physical strength. It can make for more exciting stories. Is that why women only tell their heroic baby-drama stories amongst women, or in ‘safe’ company? Because on the physical strength score, they score lower? Yet, women often do all they can in accordance with their physical prowess, too. It’s only the distribution of hormones that makes that physical prowess less than that of men, and nothing to do with applying themselves with all they’ve got. If heroic stories were based not only on physical strength, but equally on grit, determination, and selfless disregard, wouldn’t women’s stories be right up there, too? What would it sound like if mothers talked themselves up to the whole world based on that? That their stories were not ‘baby stories’ but Mothers-as-Heroines stories?
What would that sound like?
Header pic by wjgomes