Awwwwww babies. Gorgeously chubby, gurgling slabs of joy and fulfilment. That’s what we think before becoming parents.
On some level we are aware that they are also urine-soaked, poo-covered, sleep hijackers who scream and cry to get what they want, burp in your face and think nothing of covering both you and themselves in milky vomit on a pretty regular basis but generally speaking they have managed to cultivate the appearance of being relatively gentle, peace-loving creatures.
But don’t be taken in by their chubby thighs and toothless grins. Babies are violent little thugs who will inflict as much physical suffering on you as possible and then laugh in your face. By the time they reach the 7 month mark they have already acquired a fair few dirty fighting techniques and, like the best free fighters, generally prefer (dimpled) bare-knuckle fighting to using weapons. Here are just a few of the things to watch out for:
1 Claws – sharp little baby nails primed to wreak havoc on whatever uncovered part of face or body you happen to place within striking range. Don’t be fooled into thinking that they’re trying to grab your cheek, they’re really going for the eyes. Babies and their talons have provided inspiration for such characters as Edward Scissorhands, Freddie Kruger and Wolverine. It doesn’t matter how often you cut their nails they are always long enough and sharp enough to slash you.
2 Finger jabs – who pre-parenthood could have imagined the force with which a 18lb chub-monkey with little or no muscle definition can insert a finger in your eye or nose or both simultaneously.
3 Slaps- open handed rhythmic slapping. Cute when they do it on the high chair tray to show how much they’re just loving their apple purée, not so cute when they do it to your boobs while they’re feeding. Sort of reminiscent of a farmer patting his prize sow.
4 The boob pinch and twist – the slightly loose skin, a consequence of spending several months with a not inconsiderable weight dangling from it at all hours of the day and night, is irresistible to your child’s vice-like grasp. None breastfed babies content themselves with doing a similar move on ears and noses.
5 The nipple stretch- breastfeeders wince at the very mention. New babies are too in the feeding-zone to have any interest in the world beyond the boob. Unfortunately, older babies hear someone yawn half a mile away, whip their head round to see what’s disturbing their lunch and take your nipple with them.
6 Headbutting – one of the first skills honed. It isn’t so bad, and actually quite sweet, when a floppy 6-weeker rams your chin with their still softish skull but it’s a potential nose breaker when a 7-month old moves in for a kiss.
7 Hair pulling – most new mums complain about hair loss, what they don’t tell you is that 50% of loss is hormonal, the other 50% is yanked out in handfuls by those grasping little fingers: so precise when it comes to grabbing hair, yet so rubbish at picking up rice crackers.
8 Plastic shapes- the weapon of choice for the under-1s. Like that mad bloke down the pub who punches himself in the stomach saying ‘I’m well hard me’, the pre-toddler will bash themselves repeatedly in the face with the blue plastic triangle from their shape sorter and show no signs of distress. They will then proceed to hit you with it too and laugh at you when you cry.
9 Gumming- there are those nights when you’re breastfeeding in the dark and you get gummed so hard that you’re convinced that the first tooth has come through. In the morning (clutching your still bruised nipple) you eagerly check your offspring’s mouth for the evidence. And…there are no teeth, just amazingly hard gums.
10 The realization that it can only get worse………