If ever there was a convincing argument against evolution, it’s babies.
For years now, the majority of us have gladly accepted the genius of Charles Darwin’s theories, merrily accepting the idea of survival of the fittest and gradual adaptation of each species to their environment. We consider ourselves, humans, the most successful of all, with only the Creationists and a few other mad conspiracy theorists daring to contradict the father of evolution.
Yet, all anyone needed to do to undermine Darwin’s genius was shove him in a room with a baby for a few months. He, presumably, was too busy conducting actual scientific research to deal with nappies and weaning, but had he had the time, surely he would have realised his theories had no basis in reality.
For a start, let’s take sleep. If ever there is a time in the human life cycle where sleep is crucial, it is in those first few years; years of huge physical, emotional and mental development, all requiring large amounts of sleep. If evolution was true, surely human infants would have evolved to be able to…well…sleep! How can a species which has the capacity to build cities, create the internet, produce Shakespeare, not evolve in a way which allows a baby who needs to sleep to go the **** to sleep?! Did Darwin ever spend endless hours in the midst of the night, pacing back and forth, bleary-eyed whispering ‘it’s ok, I’m here, go to sleep, please go to sleep, pleeeeeeeease go to sleep!!!’, or arguing with a toddler who screams ‘but I’m NOT tiiiiired’, while sprawled across the floor, yawning and rubbing their eyes so much you think they may actually rub them out? I think not, or surely it would have blown a substantial hole in his theory that animals adapt to meet their own basic needs.
Unconvinced? Let’s consider teething. When all the other bones and vital organs have developed in the womb, teeth are left to the outside world. Perhaps this is deliberate? It allows for easier suckling in the early days (Ha! We’ll come to that later). Yet how can a system of development which causes infinite amounts of pain to a child be a result of millions of years of careful natural development? Aside from the total bewilderment of a poor, miserable child who cannot possibly comprehend what is happening to them, it once again brings us back to sleep, or rather the lack thereof. Screaming baby = no sleep for anyone = bad backs and grumpiness for the parents = miserable family = very poor design.
Finally, let’s look at movement. Ever watched a nature documentary where a baby giraffe is born? We might coo and aww, giggling slightly as it tries to stand and inevitably stumbles over its newborn, gangly and cumbersome limbs. ‘Aww bless, it can’t stand up’. Erm, yes it can! It might be wobbly, but 2 minutes out of the womb and it’s already on the move. Give it a few days and it’ll be walking miles to find food and water. Our lazy offspring laze around, crying for attention, and half of them can’t even eat properly when a nipple full of milk is shoved right into their open gobs. How is that the result of years of careful natural selection? Is that really the best we can do? If humans have truly evolved to be so successful over the years, surely they should be born, jump onto their feet and head straight to the fruit bowl to help themselves to a banana before coming over to snuggle up with a calm, contented and rested parent.
Sorry Darwin, I’ve always believed you, but I can’t ignore the evidence of my own experience. If babies were designed, the poor designer who presented them to the boss would be promptly kicked out of the board room: “Come back when you’ve figured out how to stop it defecating everywhere, and, for God’s Sake, surely the sound department can come up with something that doesn’t grate quite so much on the ears!”.
It’s that time of year when normally rational and intelligent people suddenly become bumbling idiots, unable to comprehend events which have happened, without fail, year in year out throughout their entire lives.
“I can’t believe how dark it is!”
“It’s weird because it’s six o’clock, but really it’s five o’clock. But really, it’s like six o’clock”
“I guess I’m hungry because really, it’s sort of tea time in my world.”
“I know why it’s light, but I just don’t really believe it. You know?”
If you you haven’t heard variations on the above phrases, you must live in a hole. A really deep hole which is not penetrated by light. A hole in which time does not exist.
There is, however, one group who remain largely unaffected by the clocks going back: parents. Specifically, parents of young children. While the rest of the world lazed around in their PJs on Sunday morning, enjoying the benefits of that extra hour in bed, we were up as normal. Toddlers could not care less about that extra hour, if anything they take the opportunity to get up even earlier. If the whole country can mess around with time just to suit itself, why not children? Sod 6am – why not get up at 5? Or even 4? Not that this will have any impact on bed time of course. No self respecting toddler would go to bed at 8pm if they could stay up dancing until midnight (oh habits of our twenties, how you come back to bite us on the ass!)
If you find yourself up with your offspring in the ungodly hours of the morning, while the rest of the world snoozes on oblivious, there is only one answer: TV. More specifically: In the Night Garden. Other TV may well suffice, but only In The Night Garden, with it’s soothing plinky plonky noises and the deep chocolate tones of Derek Jacobi will both entertain the little one while allowing you to peacefully doze through the mind bogglingly dull adventures of a group of oversized stuffed toys.
So, last week, I found myself sprawled face down on the sofa while my two year old hit me repeatedly on the back screeching ‘Look Mummy! Tombliboos!’ with a level of noise and enthusiasm which should surely be illegal before 8am.
Peering up to deliver the cursory ‘oh yeah’ I realised something. Through my bleary, barely conscious eyes, with just a one second glance, I knew I had seen this episode before. It was the one where one of the Tombliboos steals all the Pinky Ponk juice.
I bloody hate that episode. This selfish, irresponsible little wretch wanders around happily thieving from all of his friends while they innocently play, unaware of his criminal shenanigans. Eventually, the self-serving little blighter drinks so much of everyone else’s Pinky Ponk Juice that he becomes ill. Once he is discovered, rather than being reprimanded or punished or left to suffer the illness he has inflicted upon himself, the others prance around him, desperately trying to cheer him up. He learns no lessons about theft, gets free entertainment and presumably doesn’t even have to wash up the cups. What kind of message is this sending to our children? Especially ones like mine whose lazy, slovenly parents allow them to watch this exact episode on a seemingly regular basis?
Annoyed, I dragged my carcass into a sitting position to watch and see what other morally questionable lessons Derek Jacobi and the Night Garden residents were teaching my son.
Then there it was. The ending, and the clue as to the cause of all my sleep deprived nights.
“Somebody’s not in bed.
Who’s not in bed?
Iggle Piggle’s not in bed.”
Here, in a programme ostensibly designed to help send young children off to sleep, was the central character charging around well after story time, hiding behind trees and refusing to go to bed.
Once spotted, Iggle Piggle flops to the ground where he stands and is told softly by Jacobi’s satin tones: ‘Don’t worry Iggle Piggle’ as he too, gets away with whatever he wants.
Suddenly, it all made sense. The bed time antics. The sneaking around after dark. Regularly finding my son sleeping in corridors and on bedroom floors, clutching toys, water bottles and blankets; basically collapsing unwillingly into sleep anywhere other than the warm, comfortable bed we had spent time and money putting together for him.
I turned to him slowly, regarded his delighted grin with mistrust and said:
“Iggle Piggle doesn’t go to bed, does he?”
“No!” he replied with glee.
“Is this where you learned it from?” I asked outright.
He turned to me, slowly drew his fingers from where they had been stuffed in his mouth, grinned a cheeky, slobbery grin and screeched:
And so it was that I discovered the great CBeebies conspiracy. Children’s entertainment? Public Service Broadcasting? I’ve seen through you and your game. Make a programme to get kids off to sleep, teach them bad sleep habits, then tired, desperate, sleep deprived parents will sit them right back in front of the very programme which caused it all in the first place just to get a few moments peace! The irony. It’s genius!
Well Jacobi, you may have fooled us before, but I’ve seen through you now, and there’ll be no more Pinky Ponk Juice in our house!
Having a child changes your outlook on the world completely. That first moment you hold your little one, you are transformed. You feel you could almost explode with love. It courses through your veins and beams out through every pore like lava oozing from a volcano before a sudden violent eruption (I’m worried that may read more like a horrific metaphor for the physical act of giving birth rather than a lovely warm metaphor for a mother’s love, but it’s nearly 11pm, I’m tired and can’t think of anything else so it’s staying in!).
Sadly, that feeling isn’t quite as all encompassing as it first seems. While my capacity for love has increased incredibly, so has my capacity to hate. Since the day I found out I was pregnant I have discovered whole swathes of people and organizations of whom I was previously unaware but who I would now cheerfully throw down to the bottom of a volcano with barely a second thought.
Here are just a few…
…and anyone else who tried to congratulate me on procreating by giving me ‘free’ stuff. From the moment I stared in disbelief at a stick with some lines on it, organisations were climbing over each other to shower me with gifts. How lovely! Except it isn’t. Excuse me if I sound ungrateful, but I’m not sure a couple of free nappies and a sample of fabric softener really prepared me for the realities of motherhood, and it certainly wasn’t worth the months of being bombarded by emails, mail shots and very persistent cold callers trying to make me change energy suppliers. Nor the rather brazen woman who wandered into my miserably lonely cubicle on the post-natal ward when I was desperately trying to soothe a crying baby and asked if I wanted to sign up for a professional photography session. No I bloody well do not, I’m busy trying to cram a sensitive part of my sore, sewn up, sleep deprived body into the mouth of a tiny, screaming monster. Now bugger off!
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you may find this recent Guardian article interesting: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/apr/28/alice-roberts-pregnancy-bounty-nhs
2. People who take lifts when they don’t need to
The Olympics and Paralympics were amazing. They showcased some amazing sporting talents, they inspired ordinary people to try new things and they brought our nation together. On a more selfish note, they also meant that the area near the Olympic Park (where I happen to live) was made much more accessible with lifts everywhere. It was the best legacy it could give me as a new mum: not having to constantly lug a buggy up and down stairs just to get around. Make no mistake though, as soon as my son is walking, we will be back to using the stairs. Lifts are useful, but annoying: slow, clunky and claustrophobic. I will never understand – when I am hanging around waiting for the lift to come down and collect me, while I stare longingly at the stairs and escalators which taunt me with their simple speed and availability, while I watch other people easily run up and jump on the train which I will probably now miss by the narrowest of margins – why there is always someone who insists on taking the lift when they don’t need to. I know you can’t always tell who can and can’t use stairs, but if you can run to the lift, athletically shove out your hand to heave open the closing doors and then squeeze your way in between two buggies, I reckon you could have at least managed to stand on the escalators.
3. People who stand in the wheelchair/buggy area of the bus when there are seats available
Seriously, I would love to sit down. LOVE it! There are loads of seats available so why have you chosen to stand in the only place I can possibly go? And why do you look so annoyed when I ask you to move? Enough said.
4. People who compare your child to their cat
I had far too many variations on the following conversation during the first few months of being a mum.
THEM: So how are you and the little one?
ME: Good thanks (I don’t know. I’m not sure I can remember my own name. Do I know you?)
THEM: That’s good. You’re not too tired?
ME: Well, I am pretty knackered. He’s been waking up every two hours the past couple of nights. Plus I have to rock him back to sleep so my back’s really sore. (I’m so tired and I’m in agony. Please kill me.)
THEM: That must be hard.
ME: Yeah, it’s so tiring, but I’m sure it’s just a phase (Seriously, kill me now. It’s the kindest thing to do)
THEM: Yeah. I know just how you feel. My cat is wearing me out. He woke me up at 5.30 this morning jumping on my bed. I’m so exhausted!
ME: Really? (Actually, maybe I’ll just kill you instead)
5. Strangers who ask if you’re breastfeeding/if baby is sleeping through the night.
One of the best things about becoming a mum was it made me part of a community. For years, as a Northerner in London, I’d been laboring under the common assumption that Southerners were just not that friendly. It was all heads down, power through, never look anyone in the eye and never, ever talk to a stranger on the tube.
All that changes when you have a baby. Suddenly everyone is your friend: the receptionist at the doctor’s surgery knows your name, you get to know half your neighbours through the children’s centres, and complete strangers stop you in the street to tell you how cute your baby is. It’s genuinely lovely.
What’s not lovely is that social norms flip so much that people feel they can ask you incredibly personal questions like “So are you breastfeeding? Is it going well?” – erm, yes strange old man in the street, would you like a rundown of exactly how many times a day I have to get my boobs out? – or “is he sleeping through the night yet?” – no of course he’s bloody not, he’s 8 weeks old, but thanks for making me feel like a completely inadequate parent by implying that he should be and getting my hopes up that maybe he will when in fact I have many more sleep deprived months to go. Seriously, I don’t know you. Mind your own business!