The Biggest Mistake You Can Make When You’re Having A Baby

Any couple, upon discovering the news of their pregnancy could be forgiven for the mistake of assuming they were having a baby.

Yes it may be true, you’ve seen it on the monitor, you’ve printed out the picture and then placed it on the door of the refrigerator. Those ten little toes, a button nose, and a tiny beating heart on an ultrasound. But don’t be fooled, that’s not a baby – that’s a 13 year old just patiently waiting to teach you a few lessons about life.

I think of the hearts and souls of my children as four separate bunsen burners. Their flames constantly lit, their reactions a continual experiment in the chemistry that is family relationships, school and hormones. They fire up and cool down. Often it’s predictable: the emotions of a birthday party, a sports game, or a tenuous friendship. Sometimes it’s the opposite, irrational and hectic: a fight over a random plastic cup, a rip in a t-shirt, or the time you weren’t looking when they told you to look.

What begins as your baby and your baby alone then changes and morphs into a shared experience. A group experiment. You watch your five year old walk through the school gate and high five someone you’ve never seen before. They form relationships you have nothing to do with.

“Who’s that?” you’ll ask after seeing them wave at an adult in a car at the intersection.

“That’s Joe’s Dad, he does yoga at recess”

“You do yoga?”  you had no idea.

You’ll offer advice to teachers on how to get the flame started, and become infuriated by the coach or mentor who played a role in extinguishing a dream. You’ll watch your child explode in a blaze of glory, so much excitement, the best day ever. You’ll then search for a blanket to put out the flame which has achieved its strength in anger: the backpack that was thrown across the room, the door that was slammed so hard that the walls vibrated around it.

You’ll focus all of  your attention on the flame that has lost its cool happy yellow when you notice that it’s a sad and cheerless blue. An appointment with a teacher will be made, a conference with a counsellor. You’ll sit late at night with your partner wondering just how worried you should be. You’ll ask other flame holders for advice and console yourself that this too shall pass. And just when you realise it’s over, that your flame has regained its sunshine, while you congratulate yourself on how well you’ve done you’ll catch a glimpse of something from the corner of your eye. While you weren’t watching one of the other three flames was involved in a chemical reaction of its own and now there’s now a blaze behind you.

You begin the process again.

With a familiar feeling at the pit of your stomach you’ll jump towards your burner desperate to see it back to its happy self. Clueless as to why or how it happened you’ll hypothesise for answers. Four separate flames with a series of microscopic moments and a constant list of variables.

One family reaction.

And you thought you were going home with a baby.

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