i have a theory that there are three sorts of babies in this world: goblin babies, aliens and human children. the first two are, of course, changelings. they are swapped at a very early age, and rarely with the parents noticing. look carefully at any child under three, and you can spot the types.
goblin babies have scrunched up redglowing faces, contorted little mouths screaming, howling and wailing at every chance. they exist to make their parent's life miserable. goblin babies will fling their toys on the ground twenty seven times in a row, poke you in the eye, and rip the head off any teddybear in sight.
alien babies are astoundingly calm. they sit and watch you, taking notes for the day they are swapped back and can make their report. their features are smooth and open, with wide staring eyes, and an offbalanced swaying motion. these are the babies that seem to Know Too Much, the ones that grandparents will note have an 'old fashioned look.'
human babies, the rarest of the three, have a confused look on their faces. they look perpetually baffled by the world. they half know what they want to do, but can't get to grip with co-ordination or speech yet. (the goblins and aliens are just pretending.) the struggle to grow enough to conquer these basic challenges leaves them worn out and frustrated.
people are breeding all around us, and this conversation just keeps on coming up: 'you two have to have kids, they'd be so cool.'
the next time i hear this, someone may lose the ability to procreate. there's a choice: a quick joke, a long conversation, or a swift and deadly knee in the balls. because it's nearly always men that tell me i should breed, and create a brood of anklebiters.
i'm thirty two, and have never once heard the faintest tick of the biological clock. i've never felt the need to lean over a pram and coo. if someone hands me their child, to cuddle and admire, i find the most i can say is, "oh, it's a baby" and hold the thing at arm's length not sure whether it will explode or piss on me.
i've never once felt broody, and i can get very cross with people who tell me i must, or i should, or i have to have this urge. i don't. and i have lots of reasons why...
i see no need to add to the world's population. i have no desire to ensure that my genes are parcelled up to make a new human being. i have no desire to screw up another person. i think i would make a terrible parent: i am short tempered and far too selfish. i would have no idea what to do if i had a stupid child (apart from make its life a misery as i figured out what to do.) i don't feel the need to cement the bond i have with gnarl by mingling chromosomes--i adore him, but this doesn't mean we need to make babies. i'd have trouble carrying a pregnancy to term and keeping my hip. oh, and i really enjoy my sleep.
i think the fear of being a truly lousy parent is the most important of these.
i have never been able to imagine myself with a child. it's a blank spot. not a gap, just a blank. i don't feel like i'm missing out.
people keep telling me that gnarl and heyoka babies would be astoundingly cute, but i just don't see the attraction of small babies. i can't tell when a baby is supposed to be 'beautiful'. it's just a baby, and it looks like a baby. they lie there and squirm and wail and fill nappies with revolting substances. they deprive you of sleep for at least a year, and turn ordinary, interesting human beings into Parent Creatures From the Deep.
when they grow up a bit, kids are pretty cool. once they start talking, and being able to sit still and learn to read. when they start being able to express their excellently twisty child-thoughts, and communicate with the outside world, they are pretty damn interesting. four year old children are small marvels. ten year olds are very entertaining company. thirteen year olds piss me off intensely.
i'm not very good with children. i talk to them like very small grownups, i guess. this confuses some, and entertains others. i won't run around the garden with them, but i'll make up stories, and spin crazy tales till they realise i'm not telling the truth about sweets growing on trees. i'll happily read with a child for hours on end, or try to explain how things work. i'll tell them the truth when they ask me questions, and i won't pretend that the world outside doesn't exist.
and it frightens me to watch some people when they become parents. of course, a new child has to be an important focus of their lives. but they don't need to talk about every new gesture, every slight fever and mewing session. burping is nothing to be proud of. some parents forget they are people. fascinating, lively, intelligent humans with ideas and opinions about everything sometimes get reduced to automatons. everything, and absolutely everying, is reduced to their parenthood. they stop thinking beyond the tight circle of family.
some people choose to bring up children, and give them a good life. those people who somehow nurture these really cool little humans, and fill their brains with questions and excitement. those people who wrap their kids in love and happiness and balance.
i'm not knocking your kids, or your decision to breed. just those people who expect me, us, to have or want children.
after all, i might get stuck with a goblin.