One of my favourite quotes about babies reads “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” (Elizabeth Stone)
To have your heart go walking around outside your body doesn’t sound like much fun, which makes the quote highly appropriate for describing the less fun parts of having children. That is, the vulnerability; the uncertainty; the fear.
In the first year, there’s the overarching fear of SIDS. In the second, there’s the fear of not reaching developmental milestones such as talking, in a timely manner so as to be considered ‘normal’. Then for the rest of your life, there’s the perpetual fear of them hurting themselves, falling ill, being bullied, getting kidnapped or mugged (or worse), getting their heart broken… the list is endless.
But those fears are mostly irrational and can be easily quelled with logic and a few deep breaths.
The fear that I have when it comes to my child is my inability to stand up to them.
My best friend once described a nightmare she had to me. It was a post-apocalyptic world (where most nightmares take place) and she and her two-year-old daughter had to fend off zombies. Despite her best efforts, her daughter was bitten and infected.
What would you do?
You basically have two options:
- You kill her.
- You don’t.
(Coincidentally, this is the premise of an upcoming movie ‘Maggie’ featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger in his first dramatic role as the father)
The outcome is variable for option 2. Perhaps a cure will be discovered in time to save her, or maybe she’s immune, or (most likely) she turns and then eats your brains.
I find this scenario to be a rather elegant metaphor one of my worst fears as a mother raising her first child.
Firstly, take being a zombie to mean being a waste of society’s resources, or essentially a spoiled brat. Translating option 1 into this context, you, as the parent, would cut off the child / kill the zombie. This is probably most closely related to the authoritarian style of parenting a.k.a dictatorship.
Option 2 would then mean that you, the ‘softie’ parent, don’t cut your child off. Instead, you keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best. Perhaps you tie your zombie daughter up in the basement, feeding her animal brains in hopes of sating her appetite for blood, waiting for the day they find a cure. You try to negotiate a way to buy time until your child comes to his senses and is ‘cured’.
Or worse, you just indulge them and let them take and take and take, until they kick you out of the house and put you in an old folks’ home (if you’re lucky, otherwise, just the street might do). That’s what letting your zombie child eat your brains really means.
I see that happening everyday around me – spoiled, entitled youth just waiting for their parents to hand over the fruits of their labour. Case in point, I read an article on the issue that featured a tweet by a teenager saying “My parents are wasting my inheritance spending 12£ on organic yogurt”. It wasn’t a joke.
What’s more likely to creep up on you as a parent, is being naïve enough to negotiate an in-between with your child’s demands.
I see it happening to me now as I compromise on my sleep training plans for my 3-month old son because “I’m think he’s going through a growth spurt phase” or because “He’s too young”. There are so many excuses we can make for our children to get away with their misdeeds.
I fear that I will not have the willpower to say ‘No’ to my child when he asks me for an iPhone because all his friends laugh at him for having a Nokia. I worry that I will not be able to stand my ground and do the tough thing – let them pull my hair, call me names, say they hate me, without faltering on my rule of homework before television.
But I know that it is what I must do. Because at the most trying times, giving in and saying ‘Yes’ is lazy parenting. That is taking the easy road to save you time and effort and staying in your kid’s good favour. Ultimately, they’ll turn on you and eat you alive, zombie or otherwise.