I was that person. I didn’t really like kids because I didn’t get them. I couldn’t relate. Sure, I used to be one, but that doesn’t qualify me to form relationships with them! I remember my old boss saying:
“Don’t worry, I don’t like children either”.
I looked at her with a confused expression
“What about Louis?” I remember asking about her (then) eight year old son.
“It’s different with your own, you just love them but it doesn’t mean I like anyone else’s kids”.
I thought it was an odd thing to say at the time but I admired her honesty. I never owned up to the fact that I didn’t really like them either. Sure, I’d make the obligatory polite chit chat and flash them patronising smiles but I knew and they knew, nobody was buying it. It was a charade I was putting on for the adults.
My worst nightmare was the mother on maternity leave popping into the office to proudly display their new bundle. It used to fill me with dread. My mind screaming…
I’m going to be forced to “have a hold” and pretend I have maternal instincts. The baby was quite happy sleeping in her mothers arms and now she’s being passed to incompetent me. Panic sets in. Shit, shit, I’m supposed to support the head, get a better grip, I’m going to break her, her body is falling down the gap between my arm and waist. Panic face. This is so awkward, oh no she’s waking up. My cheeks are getting hotter as the mother’s uncomfortable suggestions begin “she likes to be held closer, more upright, over your shoulder” etc. I’d try five of my best attempts to position the precious parcel in a way that may disguise the fact that the little poppet was now awake and howling. Then the dreaded words “she’s just a bit tired/hungry”. Basically that boiled down to “you’re being rubbish with her, give her back”. At that moment, the baby whisperer from finance would appear, scoop the overtired, hungry cry baby away from the smiling mum and expertly coo and sway, whilst patting her little bottom whilst holding a sensible adult conversation. The baby fell asleep safe in the knowledge that the person holding her was better qualified to meet her needs. I’d focus back on my computer and hope they’d leave.
The weirdest thing ever happened recently, I was on the receiving end of a baby-panicker – this time with the roles were reversed. I felt for the poor woman who was juggling my awkward cub all elbows and flailing arms. I reassured her it wasn’t personal but I knew she wasn’t buying it. I know the science behind it – babies need to feel safe, warm and secure and with kids you need to be confident, kind and fun and that’s all there is to it. But if it doesn’t come naturally to you to supply those types of reassuring vibes then you’re screwed.
Anyone reading this who loves and has an affinity with babies (which is probably 98% of the population) you probably can’t relate. If you, like me, lack the child-friendly microchip my tip for you is this – treat them like actual people. That was what I was doing wrong all along. I was having a weird, mock, conversation for the benefits of the adults, saying the things that I thought I was supposed to say instead of what I really thought. I know a few under sixes who still don’t get a child-friendly vibe from me, they can see through my facade and they know I haven’t got a clue how to talk to them! The funniest pictures by far are some of the outtakes of when I was modelling and I was booked to work with a little one as a mother and daughter combo, trust me nobody was buying it! Sometimes I connect with a really cute kid who sort of takes pity on me and realises that I’m trying to be nice and in a patronising kind of way they play along with my ineptitude. I have plenty of friend’s who are world experts in child interaction but overall I’m ok with having a different skill-set in life! It doesn’t mean I love babies and children any less or that I’m a bad person it just means my interpersonal skills could use a little more development. The good news is, I can confirm, I do love my own!