There are two types of people in the world. Those that, when asked if they’d like to hold a newborn baby, extend their arms with glee and welcome the little thing into the warmest of loving embraces. Then there are those people who wince, say ‘no thank you’, and hope to God that the awkward moment of rejecting someone’s innocent child quickly passes.
I am the latter. Unfortunately my maternal instinct is limited to admiring children from a distance (a dangerous sentence if taken out of context, that’s for sure), and even then the admiration is limited to children who fall into a specific age bracket or who have one of the few qualities I find endearing in small humans. Firstly, babies make me feel uncomfortable. Not because of what - or who - they are, but because the codes of conduct for handling or interacting with a newborn are so complex that I'd rather not risk it.
In truth, I held my first baby about three months ago. And she was more of a toddler than a baby, so I’m not sure if this even counts. If we’re talking newborns, then in my 23 years, I have cupped a grand total of zero. I was offered the other day, but I politely declined (albeit as politely as you can when you decline a baby in front of their parents) having been instantly filled with the dread of “okay holding the baby is all well and good, but how do I take the baby? And how do I give the baby back? What is the protocol for the baby handover?”
Instead, I’m a foot tickler. I’m an “omg, I can’t believe how small they are” and expert conversation divergent, able to steer the conversation away onto a brand new, all-encompassing topic as soon as I feel I’m about to be offered 'the cuddle'.
Toddlers, however, I think are cute af. When they kind of waddle around and lean on stuff and randomly start laughing in the middle of a conversation - that I can get on board with. They have chubby fat rolls like a Shar-Pei and look adorable in a plethora of fluffy onesies, from the cuddly sheep to the miniature lion. Toddlers to me are like puppies - I desperately want their approval and if they give me attention, I feel like the chosen one.
But then we go downhill again, because when kids start talking, I have literally no idea what to say to them. What is normal conversation for children? After a soft, drawn-out ‘hello’, I’m at a loss. Shall I ask them about their day? Shall I ask them what their favourite colour is? Shall I comment on the latest meme to hit Twitter and hope they’ll want to dive into it’s origins and proper use?
I also don’t want to be patronising. I don’t want to ask a kid if they like Thomas the Tank Engine to be met with a cringe and a “uhhh, Jeremy is 8, not 3” comment from their parent. I don’t want to be sassed by a kid because everybody knows you can’t really sass a kid back. I mean, where is the limit? I know I can't call a kid a dickhead (not to their face, anyway), but how do you politely tell a child to piss off when they keep making jokes about your v. fashionable shoes?
There have never been any young children in my family. I was the middle out of five grandchildren with the youngest being five years younger than me, so growing up, I wasn’t surrounded by really young cousins or an extended family of random, distantly related babies. None of my friends have children and my Mum didn’t decide that at 50-something she wanted to be a Mum again, so my contact with little ones has been limited to friends of friends or my mates family barbecues.
This probably accounts for why I’m so desperately awkward around children, and why they're such a mystery to me. How old are they when they start to walk? To talk? Which comes first? Dogs, on the other hand, I'm well versed in. I’ve been surrounded by dogs since I can remember, so as soon as I walk past a pooch in the street I’m immediately leaping over myself to let them know how much of a very good dog they are. 13/10 doggo.
Doggy distractions aside, this is a public statement of apology for acting awkwardly around your child. Whether it’s already happened or it’s yet to come, I hereby express how sorry I am for not wanting to give them a hug or not indulging them when they keep bringing me random objects and expecting me to play (I've worked in retail and it's no joke, Ellie). I can, however, commit to being the cool aunt when they are rebellious teenagers and am more than happy to dogsit your lovely pupper in the meantime. Just come back to me when they're stealing your cigarettes and looking to listen to some good music, and I'm your girl.