In the hazy days of those first few weeks of motherhood, I began to hear certain phrases again and again.
Dazed and confused I let them wash over me, leaving a nice warm, fuzzy feeling about my baby, my performance as a parent and even mankind in general. People were just so nice. They had such complimentary things to say about me and my baby.
But gradually these catchphrases became diluted and I realised they were nothing but parenting pleasantries. Much like, “Have a nice day”, and “How are you?”, they didn’t really mean anything.
And now I hear myself saying them to new parents and I cringe. But we have to keep up the pretence for these poor fledglings, and initiate them to the terrible truth gradually.
“I can’t even remember when mine used to be that small.”
Secret Subtext: Actually, I remember it well. I reminisce about it on a daily basis – when I had a tiny, pathetic, immobile dependent who only ate and slept. Before it became an uncontrollable, demanding, tantrum-throwing, destructive, screeching banshee.
“They grow up so fast – you won’t believe how quickly the time goes.”
Secret Subtext: But really, the long, lonely days when you are bound by their routine, and the even longer, exhausting nights when they refuse to sleep – oh, how they drag on, and on, and on.
“Wow! He/she looks very alert.”
Secret Subtext: I can’t think of anything else polite to say about your boring Newborn who can’t even sit up yet. But as it is awake I have gone with this token compliment. If it was asleep I would have resorted to the old, “How adorable!”
“That is such a lovely age.”
Secret Subtext: Another token phrase that really means, “You should be grateful they are so easy to look after at this age. And if I’m honest, I remember there are difficult parts to every stage of development.”
“Enjoy it while you can.”
Secret Subtext: Don’t resent them for waking you up in the night now, because soon they won’t ever keep still and you’ll long for the day you had those lingering, quiet cuddles – sleep or no sleep.
“Well done for getting out of the house.”
Secret Subtext: I know you want to get out to groups and meet people, but you should really take advantage of the time you are able to lie around in your pyjamas and watch trash on Netflix, before controlling your child in public becomes a real chore.
“It’s just a phase.”
Secret Subtext: It probably is just a phase. But once you get through this one, there will be another hurdle to overcome, and another, and another, and another…
Secret Subtext: I’m sure you’re really proud your baby has just learned to wave. But I had one of those once, and then it became this monster that has made me too tired and irritated to find it cute anymore.
“Would you like to swap?”
Secret Subtext: Your kid may look like a little angel now, but for all I know it never sleeps, won’t feed and squeals like a pig. Better the devil you know, thank you very much.