When a bomb goes off in a confined spot, it changes everything. But it is not possible to predict how it will change or what it will change. The bomb blast creates a new reality.
The arrival of a baby does that. Everything is different. Life is different – not just for a few months, or even a few years. It is different forever. Men often think, “Soon after the baby arrives, it will be back to things as they used to be with my partner (my girl, my hot date, my babe, my cutie).” Prior to the birth, women have their own version of this allusion. Wrong! Wrong! Reality has changed. Babies are bombs and they change everything, and everybody close to them. And just like with a bomb blast, prior to their arrival it is not possible to accurately predict what will change, who will change or how it will change.
I know from experience.
My wife is competitive. I believed she would never walk away from a challenge. But just as defeat at my hands stared her in the face, she walked away from the challenge. She chickened out. I never believed she would do such a thing. It was against her nature. Why? Her complete reverse of her attitude was due to the arrival of our baby. The baby made the tiger changed her stripes.
My wife is the Attila the Hun of scrabble. She had destroyed me every time. However, on this one occasion I had her. I could smell victory. I had the seven best letters ever. I had ‘u’ as well as ‘q’ and giant scores were spinning through my head. Suddenly she said, “have to go.” “Go where?“ “To the hospital – the baby is coming.” I protested. “In another ten minutes I will demolish you!”. “Get me to the hospital,” she said as she staggered to her feet. There was no stopping her. And that’s how a historical victory eluded me. I was up against a baby bomb.
Babies transform people. Swinging chicks and good time-girls become someone else. Action men whose interests are hunting, fishing and hanging out with the boys, find themselves becoming home-bodies. Individuals start using different words and making previously unheard sounds with a completely different voice. It’s true that a few individuals steel themselves and don’t give that special attention to the infant. But most do. The infant moves those close to him/her into a new realm. The explosion of the baby bomb creates a new reality in which previous interests and values will all be challenged.
The way we care for, or don’t care for our infants’ shapes society. Margaret Mead, the famous anthropologist, worked in Papua New Guinea in 1930. She studied several tribes. She noted that some tribes were loving and caring to their babies. Other tribes were dismissive of babies and small children, often throwing babies into the mountain streams. She further noted that the tribes who cared for their children were peaceful and trustworthy. Whereas the tribes at times threw away their babies and treated young children harshly were violent and untrustworthy.
My impression is that in the times we live in, the transformative power of babies is not much understood. I feel that they are often portrayed as a burden to be tolerated. The idea that they could be a source of transformation for the parents and the community is not much considered. Society seems to see them as a charge against the budget and that’s that.
These days individuals and couples who want something cute and warm, to cuddle on the couch, and to look cute in selfies frequently choose a pet. With a pet, it doesn’t matter what your values are or what your lifestyle is, your furry friend will affirm you. No challenges here. And you can put them in a shelter when you go on a break. One problem is pets mostly only live nine to twelve years. Well, you can always buy another one!
Babies are bombs. You can’t lock them in the spare room and hope they don’t bark too much. You can’t leave them for a few hours while you pursue your hobby, socialize or just take a rest. They need you. They need you all the time. They expect you to live safely and consistently. They watch you and learn from you every day. Even more than food, they need love. And more than you can imagine, they return love.
They will challenge your values and your attitudes. Babies can transform individuals, couples and societies. As in New Guinea, babies can enable those who care for them to live more peacefully, love more deeply and nourish community. And here’s a plus – they probably and hopefully, will outlive you.
Babies are bombs. They always were and they always will be.
Caption: The Informer staff member, Ella Kington, with her newly arrived ‘bomb’, Albee Ray, born 4 November 2023.