(This was written for Yowoto, but since they’ve moved to an app format, am posting this here. After yonks, an offspring post on the blog. Would love to have comments on the post.)
Once upon a time there was a baby, and he was cute and it was good. Then the baby grew and began crawling, and pulling table cloths off tables with the crockery included as a package deal, but he was learning to stand, and it was good. Then the baby became a toddler and took his first shaky steps through the house, and discovered speed, not of the narcotic version thank you very much, and couldn’t yet apply the brakes to himself when at top speed, and there were banged noses and it was good.
And there was a mother who was waiting and waiting for the baby to start talking and call her Mamma and one day he turned to her with his big, big long lashed eyes and lisped Mummumummum and she was so overjoyed she turned cartwheels and it was good.
The Mummummummum gradually got refined to Mamma and this mother was overjoyed at hearing her offspring call her thus. It was all good.
Cut to 11 years later.
“MOM,” comes the call, echoing through sturdy cement and concrete walls, shaking the plaster off the ceiling, as I hide in a corner of the house, pretending not to have heard the definite demand in that tone of voice.
It may be appropriate to insert here that this clarion call for immediate attention will often come just when I have drawn the drapes, unfurled the comforter, tucked myself into it, and put the eye mask on in the ambitious hope of being able to grab approximately 30 minutes of shut eye of an afternoon nap given the wake up time that morning had been 4.30 am after a night punctuated by nightmares primarily concerning missing a flight or being chased by ghoulish creatures wearing tutus.
I ignored the call, which was now being repeated on a loop, worse than a really efficient alarm on a ten second snooze setting. I pulled the sheet over my head and buried my head further down into the pillow hoping against hope that the calling would stop.
It did. And ten seconds later, which an explosion that could only mean the building had collapsed or a runaway elephant had crashed the bedroom door, the door burst open and an irate offspring parked himself on my stomach.
“Mom,” he called, opening my eyes with his fingers. I realised that I have brought up a brave child who takes wild risks with no thought for life or limb. He could go into hedge fund management without a quaver. “Give me something to eat.”
I play dead. If he was a right thinking bear or other wild animal this might have worked, but being a human child with a growling stomach, it didn’t. He prodded me in the ribcage. “MOM!” he said again, louder and more insistent, and all letters capitalised.
What hope do I, a hapless mom, have against this monster called GrowingTeenChildAppetite? I gave up the unequal fight and rose like the dead, to get into the kitchen and source nourishment for this, my offspring, who could also go by the monicker The Bottomless Pit, if I was pressed for an option to the perfectly nice and misleading name we gave him on his birth certificate.
If you had told me 11 years ago I would dread the call of ‘Mom’ reverberating through the premises I would have laughed at you and asked you what potent stuff you were smoking. Today I quail at the cry of ‘Mom,’ I hide behind newspapers, I take myself into the bathroom for mysterious personal maintenance purposes, I tremble.
Once upon a time this very same clarion call for me would have me drop whatever it was I was doing, regardless of whether it involved iron pans and would lead to disastrous consequence for the toe it fell on, and rush to see what it was the child needed. The mind, of course, would always conjure up an emergency of proportions that involved blood and a visit to the casualty department but more often than not it would be nothing more gruesome than the head of a WWE action figure needing to be jammed back on again after much energetic twisting had detached it from the torso. (Full movable parts for lifelike action being our motto when we bought these.) As he grew older the “Mom”s got rarer when called out from a distance, he was learning to get himself things he wanted, solve disputes on his own and knew he was to come to me only when blood was spilt.
He’s been taught how to forage in the kitchen when his survival depends on it, how to look to the fruit basket for immediate nutrition when there seems nothing handy in the snacking department and how cheese slices, bread and sandwich spread and jam can always save the day. I’m not even going to talk about microwaveable popcorn packets and how the yellow side goes down has been demonstrated over and over again, to the threat stated with as much sternness as I can muster at the conclusion, “And don’t wake me up again from my nap…”
“Mom,” he calls. The maternal heart quivers. Should I respond? Should I call him to the room I am at to elaborate? Should I rush to his side, gather him to my bosom and plant a kiss on his forehead, all sweaty and tousled from making WWE action figures battle ferociously. “What?” I reply, without the courteous addition of “…is it?”
“Come here,” the strident demand floats back in reply. “What is it?” I call back. “I’m busy eating/cooking/sleeping/reading,” I reply, as might be applicable. There will be silence for approximately ten seconds and then the child will call through the walls again, “MOM,” at decibel levels which could have the neighbours come across and enquire politely about whether they needed to report me for parental neglect. I give up all pretence at holding out and go forth to investigate. “What is it?” I say, wearing my best surly ThisHadBetterBeSomethingImportant expression. “Gimme a hug, gimme a kichu,” he says, reaching his arms out. I melt, do as requested, knowing in my heart, what his next sentence would be.
“Mom, gimme something to eat.”