Only when your fertility is challenged, do you start to consider all the little bits & pieces that have built up over the years, about the expected inevitability of ‘when I have children’. Now that I’m preparing myself for the very real possibility of those expectations not being fulfilled, here are some of the things that have unhelpfully come to mind;
My boys will have long hair and my girls will have short hair* – a contradiction maybe? Allowing boys hair to grow, not being afraid to rebuff comments about them ‘looking like a girl’, or ‘needing a haircut’. What is the obsession with tiny boys getting a buzz cut? Similarly, strolling through the resistance to cut girls hair because they ‘look so sweet’, while at the same time trapping their hair in everything and constantly brushing it out of their faces. Shoulder length hair all round, I reckon.
Breast is best – I’ve always felt my boobs have purpose and I assumed that breastfeeding would be where they’d come it to their own. I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t already given my boobs a fair crack at finding their purpose in life, but no-one can deny boobs for babies (although I know they do). I’d be cool and calm about breastfeeding, having no inhibitions about when and where to get them out. I’d also know when to breast milk should make way for fruit & veg. I’d be able to have confident conversations with my friends, which were supportive and constructive about their breastfeeding (and when to stop!), because I’d be speaking with experience on my side.
Toys for all* – There is so much conversation about gendering children’s playthings, that we already follow the great work of Let Toys Be Toys on Twitter (let’s call it research), as well as various others that are fighting the good fight for equal access to dinosaurs and dolls. I have already become a militant preserver of gender-neutrality in the gifts I buy for friends and family’s children, as well as the annoying person contradicting the parent that says orange is too girly for her son. Colours are for everyone!
Baby box/Baby shower (*?) – Now, I do not like baby showers and I have often protested their intrusion. There are various reasons for this, but they mainly fall in to ‘adopted Americanism’ (see also gender reveals) and ‘it’s too early’. How can you celebrate a baby yet to arrive? This attitude only solidified further when the perilous world of fertility opened up. Having said all that, our office do baby boxes similar to the Finnish idea. It’s a lovely way to provide a gesture of preparation to the family, and can include treats for mum, dad and baby.
Bedtime* – Routine and story time. It’s never to early to start reading to kids. Books are the first thing I buy for the offspring of friends and family (something for the baby box!). I often see friend’s having their lives dictated by their children’s refusal to go to bed. I get that. But I also know how soothing and special a bedtime routine can be. It’s a tiny pocket of bonding, every day.
Names – This one makes me the saddest. There have been a LOT of conversations about baby names, whether it’s hypothetical, or for an impending arrival. I’ve had lists in my purse, the back of a diary, in school exercise books, of names that have taken my fancy over the years. Most have dropped off, some have remained. I’ve had a couple of middle names given in my honour – who would I give that privilege to? All the times that I have enthused about the etymology or a previous bearer of a name. I guess we’ll never get to meet baby Florian or Xerxes (this one is actually D’s choice! A joke I hope).
Miscellaneous – When people talk about managing expectations, I have seen so many parents varients of these things, so while I’m about it; only using eco-friendly nappies and babywipes – maybe even trying the washable ones!, wooden toys and no brands, a wide range of delicious, home-cooked food, limited screen time, rainbows every day, magical powers etc, etc.
* Of course some of these things may still be on the agenda, if we follow other routes to parenthood. I’ll still have the opportunity to impose my own brand of parenting, even if it’s by an unconventional methods. Lucky kids!