A wise man once told me that opinions are like anuses – everyone has one. This is especially true of parenting. After all, it’s a task that most of us undertake at some point in our lives.
Sifting through the sea of contradicting opinions is one of the ultimate challenges for any new parent. People are only too willing to drop their two-cents, whether solicited or not. This undoubtedly adds to the complexity of parenting, but these are not the opinions of which you should be most wary. The opinions that I believe can cause you the most problems are your own, pre-child ones.
They are the throw-away lines that you used so freely before you actually had any understanding of the complexity of the job. They are the opinions that escape your mouth as “I’d never let my child…”, often uttered as you witness a single snapshot of another family’s life.
I have done it, many times. Too many to count. I think it’s natural to have an idealistic view of how you expect family life to be before you begin, but it is important to understand that the reality rarely meets your expectations.
The Toys in the Doctor’s Surgery Waiting Room
I had always looked on toys in the doctor’s surgery with disgust. I would never let my child play with them I used to say quietly to myself as I watched children play with the same toys that have sat in the same corner of the surgery waiting room for the past ten years. Just imagine how filthy they are! Imagine how many sick and grubby little fingers have been touching them already. To be honest, the thought of going anywhere near them made me feel a little ill.
Yesterday, we took Hannah to the doctor. She was suffering from what turned out to be conjunctivitis – highly contagious conjunctivitis.
We entered the room and sat down. I sat on the chair and Hannah sat patiently in my lap. She looked around the room and took in the various elements. Her eyes stopped for a while on the television, something that is still very much a novelty for Hannah as we have avoided giving her any screen time at home (yes, I did say I would never let my baby watch the television. So far I have stuck to that one).
After a while, Hannah became bored of the American chat show on the screen and she began scanning the room again. She looked at posters and pamphlets, until eventually her eyes came to rest on the lime-green plastic object in the corner of the room – the toy bucket.
The battle begins…
I still have no idea how Hannah knew what it was, but she definitely knew. Almost immediately she grew restless. Her little legs kicked out and she twisted her body in the usual “let me down” manner. She had a goal in mind – a target that she suddenly had to reach.
Elderly eyes swivelled in the waiting room. A show was about to begin and they would be damned if they were going to miss the fun in their otherwise dull excursion. It was obvious that a battle of willpower was under way – my determination to keep Hannah from the box of disease, and Hannah’s determination to play.
Resigned to defeat
Hannah, of course, had the upper hand. An enthusiastic wail from her and I had to let go. No-one likes to be the parent in the middle of a waiting room commotion, and I’m no exception. To my advantage, Hannah didn’t know that she had this power. She’s never been in the situation where she has had to unleash it, as episodes of public crankiness are few and far between. But I could feel the wail building inside her. I knew I had lost. In that moment I had made the choice – I had become the parent who disgusted me so much in my pre-children days. I had become the parent who let his child play with the toys in the doctor’s surgery waiting room.
I placed her on the floor. I’m sure I gave a head-to-toe shudder as her tiny feet began to carry her towards the dreaded bucket of doom (or fun, depending on by whose viewpoint you look at it).
Saved by an angel
Just then, a voice like an angel from heaven called out “Hannah?”
It was the doctor. It was our turn to see her.
Before Hannah could reach the bucket, I scooped her up into my arms. “Time to see the doctor,” I told her.
It took a moment for it to sink in, but not too long. Hannah’s focus was already onto the next issue – the strange lady in the white coat who seemed entirely too interested in poking and prodding her. But that adventure is a story for another day.
Until next time…
One thing is for sure, Hannah has an excellent memory. I have no doubt that the next time we set foot in that doctor’s surgery waiting room, Hannah’s entire being will become devoted to reaching the bucket. At that moment, I will have little choice but to give in and let her play with the toys. Hopefully, when that time comes, Hannah will not be carrying anything highly contagious. More importantly, hopefully neither will have the last kid to touch them…