Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Please may I sit on your baby?

Like a boy scout, I really, really, really like being prepared. For everything. And part of this whole homestudy process is supposed to be about preparing us to become parents. So I should be going along with it, right? And doing all the recommended stuff? Well, yeah, if I was sensible I would just do it all, learn from the good bits and swallow the bad bits. And I know I need to jump through the hoops. Unfortunately, however, one of the hoops we have to jump through is gaining childcare experience - showing that we've spent enough time caring for pre-school children to prove that we aren't going to, I don't know, drop them or poison them or something. This is one of the things that brings waves of resentment so strong that occasionally they totally knock me off balance.

Don't worry, I know I'm an idiot. I think it's just that this reinforces my feeling that even the people facilitiating (ha) our adoption believe that we're somehow deficient because we haven't spawned, and need serious remedial help. Of course, it probably would do me good to change a few nappies, to make sure I can do it without skewering a baby on the nappy pins. And honestly, if someone else near me had adopted a baby, and was willing, I'd be around to their house asking for nappy-changing-time so fast you would only see dust. Or if my sister didn't live in Australia, this wouldn't be an issue because I would have already done so much aunty-time (no, really, L, I would). But neither are really an option, and so what's the alternative, if I really wanted to learn?

I know I probably should be asking my truckload of fertile friends if I can practise on their babies, but I. Just. Cannot. Do. It. Sometimes, it's hard enough just being in the same room as these people - it feels like being the only person at a table for one in a fancy restaurant on Valentines Day*. And yes, I know this is stupid - whatever I may feel like, my friends did not have children just to make my life difficult and I should just get over myself already. We're all in our late twenties and early thirties - it's normal for them to have kids. And it's nice that they enjoy those kids. Sure, it would also be nice if I felt like we had anything in common any more, or if they had anything to say to me that didn't start with 'when you have kids' or stop at 'so... Claudia.... how's.... umm..... work?' but like it or not, they are the ones with the normal lives and I have to get used to it because normal ain't changing anytime soon. But asking to borrow their babyfor a 'let's pretend I'm a mother' session just feels too much like going up to someone in that fancy restaurant and saying 'hey, when you go to the bathroom, do you mind if I sit in your seat for a while? Just to see how it feels?'

So instead we've just volunteered to do some common-or-garden-variety babysitting. Tonight, we're babysitting for some friends, who know about our homestudy and know that we need to do our hours (and they've got a concert that they want to go to - symbiosis at its most beautiful). And while I've just had a big moan about some of my friends, these are two of the only people I know who really haven't changed since they became parents. Or, if they have, they've been kind enough to keep the 'I've-only-really-become-a-whole-person-since-I-became-a-parent' rhapsodising away from me. Which I really appreciate. And I'm hoping that tonight will be another tick in the box for us, and that will all be great, and so on and so on and so on.

But I still resent it. I resent it because it's compulsory, and also because this kind of babysitting teaches me nothing - NOTHING - about childcare. It teaches me to sit in someone's lounge, drink their tea and watch their DVDs. While these are all essential life skills, they're really not going to help me become a better parent.

I guess we had a choice of 'swallow pride and learn something useful' or 'retain some shreds of dignity and waste time'. Looks like we went for the latter. What do you think are the chances they'll have series 4 of House??

* I have never actually done this. I am just making assumptions.

By the way - check out Emily's blog for a great adoption cartoon that made me bwah-ha-ha out loud.


  1. "essentials" of life - yes, but please do not watch Keanu Reeves on any DVD whilst babysitting. He cannot make the experience any better. :)

    At least you're ticking the things you have to do to get to your destination off the list....

    I'm glad for you about that!


  2. Arggh! Keanu! I think I can safely promise that no matter how bad things get, I won't try watching Keanu to make it better. **shudder**

  3. My husband has said many times that every couple prior to procreating should be required to go through what people who are hoping to adopt are forced to go through. Sigh. I so *get* what you're talking about with friends who have that look in their eye and ask you about work. I think the analogy you used of sitting in someone's chair while they're in the restroom is especially true. I think in the end, your attitude is a good one: you learn what you can from these mandatory activities and "jump through the hoops" with the ridiculous ones.
    (and by the way, despite having 28 nieces and nephews, Ted had never once changed a diaper or rocked anyone to sleep or fed anyone a bottle before Abe came along--and he's SO GREAT at all these things now, a total "natural." Being forced to spend time with other kids would have done nothing to prepare him to be a father).

  4. I'd say it would be fair to count pretty much every second that you are within, say, a 25m radius of a child as "childcare experience" - don't waste a minute I say.

    Oh boy do I wish you were here to do your practice on my kids!! Now THAT would be a beautiful example of symbiosis.

    I think it's a stupid Catch-22 thing... I mean I can understand why "they" wouldn't want someone who had no experience of children / no desire to be with children to adopt, but seriously, who wants to spend time with other peoples' kids when what you want is your own?

    Which reminds me of that beautiful Kenyan saying that I remember often: "Other peoples' children are like cold snot". So incredibly true. I'd advise you to share that one with your social worker.

  5. you're kidding, right?! I sometimes feel like this whole process is so humiliating. Why should I waste a perfecly good 3-day weekend driving an hour and a half each way to sit in a class and learn how to be a parent? Why do I need to let a (very nice) woman into my home to prove to her than my son is well cared for? I work in the social service field, lady; I'll give you a list of peoples houses that you should check out!!


Over to you!