Children of the revolution

“Participants in last week’s pro-choice march hang signs around children’s necks proclaiming, “I was a chosen child.” The implications are chilling. “Chosen” has surface connotations of being special, but also the cold wind whispering in your ear: you could have just as easily not been chosen. Your siblings, your flesh and blood, may not have been chosen and therefore are absent forever from your life. Such a slogan screams that adults are all-powerful. They have the right to exclude others from even being defined as human.”

Breda O’Brien, Irish Times Sat 1/10/16

I wondered when the subject of children on protest marches would arise. More specifically, the subjective value-judgements commentators inevitably attach to it. Breda might’ve been left cold by the perceived connotations of the gesture, as is her wont; I just thought it was extraordinarily naff. But I’m sure she’d expect nothing less from an irresponsible pro-choicer like myself who brought her own daughter on the march last year.

She continues…

“Children cannot rationalise abortion in the way adults can. They cannot rationalise taking away a life as a solution.”

As statements of fact, the first will likely be met with broad agreement by anyone who has ever spent a few minutes of their lifetime dabbling in logic. The second will prompt many to ask for clarifications on the meaning of life, whether that includes the life of a sentient woman, the solution to what exactly, and other plentiful well-worn question marks frequently posed by my 4 year-old and her mates over play-doh.

Breda’s contention is not that children shouldn’t be brought on marches  – she brought her own on pro-life rallies – it’s that pro-choice marches are essentially an exercise in compromising the emotional security of those children attending. Where the use of such slogans as ‘chosen child’ is an unequivocal demonstration of how their mother’s love is conditional, and there but for the almighty power of her (presumably) blithe judgement, their own lives might very well have been taken away before they began.

Tell me about it, Breda. Sure our wee one has been milking that one for years, and will continue to do so until it dawns on her around 13 that she didn’t actually ask to be born.

“No parent loves perfectly, but babies bring out a fierce protectiveness in us. The urge to protect the weakest and most helpless is primal. Or at least it used to be.” 

Or at least it is for us pro-life parents, in short. As a pro-life protesting parent, Breda is satisfied with the phased exposure to the principles of the pro-life movement undertaken with her own children. Pro-life protestors, it would seem, have a monopoly on ensuring responsible engagement of children in forms of protest.

“I told them that abortion was a word that they had to trust me to worry about and not to explain until they were much older. “

I’m not sure I feel so confident. When it comes to protecting the innocence of my own girl, and balancing that with the cultivation of a sense of justice and an incremental introduction to the complexities and messiness of life, there is much I won’t be able to guard her from. But such is life.

In time, she will come to learn there are few areas in life that can be unequivocally defined by a single moral perspective. That those holding competing views will always be the last to see their own hypocrisy. And, just as Breda marches alongside children brandishing placards showing foetal remains; the rest of us take our place next to our own diversity of bedfellows and march onward in the hope of reaching a fair destination.

For now, I’m reasonably certain that instilling an awareness of the existence of public disgruntlement, unhappiness among women about the rules that govern them, and their corresponding entitlement to use the public highway to highlight that, will not compromise our girl’s sense of security. She’s been doing it effectively in the hallway since the time she could walk.

children-marching

What do we want?

Our mothers to be trusted

When do we want it?

Er can we have our crisps now?

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Small, far away

It’s on the tip of my tongue to chalk my collapsed defenses up to the potentially lengthy gap between this ritual and the next. But I don’t. I go on craning my neck as strenuously as my neighbour engaging me in parental small-talk . Enthusiastically we strain to nab a glimpse of little ones tucked under gowns and mortar boards. Defeated by the cuteness of it all, I quietly roll thought balls to toss indiscriminately overhead.

You have to hand it to the Church for pilfering the critical glass-clinking moments from cradle to grave. And Hallmark for making the most of the spaces in between. Cousin’s Day is an opportunity to pause and reflect, and remember how your parents would’ve preferred you had turned out. While nothing says ‘I Love You, Daddy’ quite like a little bear fridge magnet and a bottle opener in the shape of a football. It’s the small things that matter.

But it’s the big things that deceptively give the appearance of being small when really they’re just far away. It’s this apparent insignificance that continues to ripen.  Always for the taking by the Cardinal sinned ever since they first flash-mobbed the corridors of our newborn sovereignty. And it’s this insignificance that’s the last cornerstone of Catholicism standing stoic as the once dominant moral policeforce lie dying in all but one Green Field.

It could’ve been worse. Posing as a bride of Christ pales in comparison to digging up the dead every few years for a boogie. And becoming one of God’s foot soldiers at 12 in exchange for a judiciously chosen name beats being drafted into the local militia. He who rules the world rocks the ritual. Those immune to the inherent need for celebration are not indigenous to this world. Let those who never felt a lump in their throat cast the first spray of confetti. Oh no, wait, they banned that a few years back. Sorry. Dems the man-made rules.

For many, the processional outings of their children are only days, far away. For others, far away days are weightless without context. Eventually we discover they’re neither. When they do come round, we find ourselves squaring reason with emotion before reconciling both with whatever ritualistic apparatus is available to us. The machinery that enables us to come together to raise a toast. And boast of unexpected enjoyment from it afterall.

Not for our one a bridal gownette, nor name-taking coercion further on. Perhaps a mild twinge of envy from her parents at the guaranteed calendar of events laid out for others. Meanwhile, nothing demonstrates the transition from nursery to primary school quite like the deafening rendition of I Can See a Rainbow and an inexhaustible supply of Monster Munch. Such hypocrisy. The parents don’t believe in giving children junk. But it’s just one day, right?

graaduation

Class of 2016

Old dog, old tricks, old post

Lately, I’ve been thinking about some things I used to do before Becoming a Parent™. I was first instructed to apply myself to this task by members of The Chorus of Doom during my pregnancy. Grave warnings were issued about how life would never be the same, and sacrifices would inevitably be made. True. I can’t say I enjoy the same relentless self-obsessing without interruption these days, but nor do I miss having to explain what I’m doing with my life. Others assume an explanation since our one arrived. The relief. I have parenting to fall back on while I figure it out; usually in a state of high anxiety over whether I should be world dictator on a full or part-time basis. Lean in *glances furtively around* can I excuse myself from this one? I’d rather chew my own elbows off than endure another meeting where everyone talks in their weird telephone voice, and gesticulates in ways that interferes with their own peripheral vision.

Nowadays, the aforementioned parentatti can be heard cheerfully reminding rookies what’s “all ahead” of them in that self-satisfied tone that suggests it never occurred to the naïve couple that their midget drunk will grow up and demand more things to meet their ever expanding basic needs. Seriously? Did you hear that, Dad? (yes, I’ve been known to call my fella that – it’s all ahead of you). Well, if I’d known. One day they might even use the expression ‘Jesus Christ!’ in a situation appropriate way. Like when they can’t get their own pants down while clamouring on to the potty. And this is something to worry about apparently. Pass me the manual. It says here it won’t last forever. Did you hear that, Dad? How do you fancy pulling an all-nighter first Friday in 2028?

‘Before’ is a broad term however. And for me, it increasingly has less to do with getting up off a chair unaided, or watching just one more episode of a box-set at three in the morning (hey, I’ve lived) than jumping off piers. That’s right. I’ve regressed for the umpteenth time in my parenthood. It was a relief to know I can still revert to ten-year old behaviour round the family Christmas Dinner table, and remain suspicious of adults talking to me like I’m one of them. But this is unprecedented. I haven’t leaped off a pier since my teens.

pier

Quick! the parentatti are coming

Not only do I want to sprint down one and fling myself knees-up overboard, I want to travel there by bike and abandon that bike on a mountain of others. I want to lay flat a digital watch on the ledge before leaping. And forget to bring a towel. Then I want us all to commandeer the road back home in a bird flight formation.

Really, I just want to live retro in a day directed by Steven Spielberg. Where walkie talkies are the height of sophisticated telecommunications, the encyclopaedia is our Google of the day, and there’s a soundtrack for when things get really exciting or tense. I’d like some ominous sounding synths as I approach my Boss’s office. And I wouldn’t half mind getting drunk by proxy through a two-foot creature waddling around our kitchen helping itself to beers from the fridge. I’ve heard that’s all ahead of us anyway. Jane said it happened with all hers but not to worry, it was just a phase.

The (parental) Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook

Presents. Not really my forte. If you received any of the following items from me for your wedding, please accept my belated apologies: fluffy blanket/bog oak birds/tool box/hammock/photo of a mountain/what the fuck is that? do you know what it is? Me neither/picnic hamper/lamp etc.

Ditto if you went out with me for five years and received a one-way ticket to East Midlands Airport with Ryanair as a Christmas present. For £2.99 (inc. tax), I thought it would be a laugh to recreate that magical scene when someone lights up on receiving a surprise plane ticket. Until they open it. I still think it’s funny when I remember how you let that wan from your class pluck your eyebrows a week later. It will always be one step removed from a blowjob in my world of intimacy.

And, if you’re related to me, please pretend you didn’t hear me saying blowjob, and cast your mind back to a few clangers that awaited you under the tree from me over the years. Ah, yes. Remember enthusiastically ripping open the paper to find your spanking new copy of….Bunreacht na  hEireann? We’ll say no more about it, or the brew-your-own-beer-kits. But, I stand proudly by providing you all with a copy of this seminal, critically acclaimed, tour de force:

Image

Not only can you do everything it says on the cover, but you can also deliver a baby in the back of a taxi, defuse a bomb, and escape a shoot-out; even if it’s me doing the shooting, which some of you continually try to provoke me into doing.

Since Becoming a Parent™, I’ve noticed danger lurks round every corner. Other parents. My parents. My reflection in the mirror. Daddy Pig. Playgrounds. Cake shops. Parenting forums. Life insurance policies. Savings accounts. Justin from Cbeebies. It’s a fucking jungle out there, which is why I’ve got a quick preview from my soon-to-be-published Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: The Early Years.

How to…

1. Hide all the junk in the shopping trolley

It’s going well. One more aisle to load up from. Your wee one is placated by the chocolate biscuit she’s helped herself to from the stack behind her. That coordination. Those motor skills. Thata girl. You’re rounding the corner into the ice-cream area and you clock the fruit teeming from the basket matching the “vibrant” colours worn by the local Mother Earth. Check behind you for the all clear and do a quick five-point turn. Whizz your way in the opposite direction whilst simultaneously lashing a few healthier products on top of the biscuits. Good luck with trying to replace the biscuit in the child’s paw with a baton carrot. The screaming will only draw attention to yourself so best avoid that and get the fuck out of there. In extreme instances, like when your hair is having a particularly anti-gravity day, feel free to hide the basket in the cereal aisle and return to it later. To avoid any repeat trauma, just do your shopping in the neighbouring town.

2. Perform CPR on someone who has just learned you didn’t baptise your child

“But…what school will they go to?”

It’s highly likely this person is already having difficulties breathing at this stage. Be sure to stand back, so when they do keel over you don’t risk an injury from the fall. Diall 999 and put the body into the recovery position. Only perform CPR if you’re adequately trained. There’s probably little more you could’ve done. It’s the biggest killer in Ireland today along with obesity and hypocrisy.

3. Get away with bringing your child to care wearing the same thing 3 days in a row

When you arrive at the crèche, unzip your child’s coat and exclaim aloud “Oh silly Daddy for not putting on your nice clean dress”

4. Combat the gaze of a fellow diner in the restaurant burrowing holes in your head while your child has a canary

To overcome the gaze, you must become the gaze. You weren’t the staring match champion of 1986 for no reason. As you engage in this visual duel, lift up the bottle with one hand and liberally apply the stuff you swore blind you wouldn’t have next or near your child onto his or her plate: ketchup. It’s like Calpol, only it goes with chips, and grapes (apparently).

5. Distract attention from your child pointing out your “belly” to everyone that visits

Explain it’s all the running around after a toddler and that you’ve hardly any time to eat so the rest of you has practically withered away to nothing. Point to your wrists and ankles and demonstrate by showing how you can now wrap you hand around them.

Other advice in the book: How to combat the embarrassment of more-or-less telling your parents you had sex when announcing a pregnancy; how to conduct your own guardian speed-dating event; how to strenuously judge parents on-line while strenuously appearing not to.

Out soon in every woeful bargain basket.

(image: Amazon)

The mommy dialogues

“How’s  it going?”

*Yawns* “Am fucked. Exhausted. Up again last night”

“Have you tried the star chart?”

*curls lip*

“Seriously, give it another go. We’d the same problems with Aisling”

“And did it work?”

“No. Well, she just grew out of it eventually. I used to do the supernanny thing as well and put her straight back into bed every time she got up. Exhausting though”

*Yawns*

“Or you could just switch beds. Our Róisín’s two were in and out of their bed till they were seven. Kevin just went to their room”

“Have done that. Turfed her Da out. At least everyone gets a night’s sleep”

“Exactly. And it doesn’t last forever”

“And it’s not like it’s interrupting any major sex sessions”

Ten second pause

In unison: “That only lasts five minutes anyway”

FauxHealth

There’s a woman who’s been trying to get up since dawn, to get the wreckage into gear, and dash, and spend, and pray she has enough petrol.

A woman who works all day and returns home to put in another shift by the fridge. And that takes the time to read the latest dubious story linking ISIS membership with wayward teenagers whose mothers work outside the home; or half half (OK, quarter) listen to yours.

There is a woman who will sit up all night with a Netflix series, and will not rest until the finale is over; who hides at the school gates rain, hail or shine; who feeds her pet hates;  makes the bed just before getting into it, puts the candid feelings into cake, and makes your wishes up for you. You’re a bank manger! You have the power to let me borrow all your birthday money!

glohealth

Yes! Found the Green & Black’s

There’s a woman who spends all her time, all her money, all her love, on the things and the people that matter. Like coffee, and toilet paper, and overdue Xtravision fees.

And through every hour, she will always be fed the feeling that she should feel she is not giving enough, not doing enough, not consuming enough.

Mothers, you do enough to put up with this insufferable bullshit. Now let us do something for you. Like stopping the exploitation of your bankrupt consumerist vulnerabilities, and the relentless rampant rifling of human emotion to sell you something else.

Mothers, you’re amazing…ly gullible if you fall for it.

FauxHealth: My cover. My arse.