It’s a fine feeling to swing a child upside down and listen to their innocent squeal as you deftly bring them back up to eye height. It also brings a sweet contraction of the heart to hold a little girl’s hand in the surf and lift her over the white wash. These sorts of child-centric activities can also lend a person an unreasonable sense of their own strength, hence increasing the appeal of children. They make you smile with their easy giggles and you begin to feel rather cool, almost God-like with their appreciation of your attention. Plus, in my case, meagre muscles are transformed into a female version of Arnie’s 1990s body. What is not to love about these little kiddies?
Well, interestingly it is getting to the stage in my life where age and a steady boyfriend mean people feel increasingly welcome to publicly speculate and almost encourage procreation. And scarily enough I am not as opposed to the idea as I was a year ago. But I would still rather volunteer for a year of wash ups rather than deliberately fall pregnant.
At the moment we are camping in an idyllic spot by the beach with a raft of cousins, uncles, aunts, family friends and about a million other children on bikes, scooters and other space-age children’s mobiles. It’s a fascinating environment.
For Ben and I, the day begins with a sleep-in or a leisurely walk to the beach. Then we’ll pack the boat up at tortoise speed and head out onto the river for a few hours fishing. We’ll play cards later, or have an arvo nap. Perhaps read a book. The decadence is palpable.
In between these lazy activities I’ll duck over to my cousins place and stir up the kids. It’s astounding to observe the world through a child’s eyes.
Yesterday I had a competition with my cousin’s curly-haired delight. I said she was as silly as a rainbow. She cleverly replied that I was as silly as a tomato.
I thought she won that round, but determined not to be outwitted by a six-year-old, I replied that she was sillier than a pod of dolphins spinning around and around in the ocean until they were so dizzy they couldn’t swim straight.
“That actually happened,” she replied, with a grave look between her curls. I had no reply for that gem of creativity so she continued. “You’re sillier than a group of frogs jumping up to the moon and back down again.”
I took that as a compliment.
But alongside the frivolity there is the darker side of parenting that is on display at all campsites at some stage. There are the children that scream blue murder when their well-meaning parents offer to take them off for a shower. Or those other cheeky devils that insist they want the toy that their sibling is playing with. At the beach the shore is lined with beady-eyed parents watching their progeny frolic in the waves, ensuring they stay between those flags. Meanwhile, I’m out the back catching waves with the sort of skill that people stop to watch, awestruck, wondering how someone can simultaneously be so confident and so uncoordinated.
As the fun cousin, I can build a quick sandcastle, jump a few waves, swing the child around like it’s an airplane and then leave the camp when the youngster is warming up to the mother of all tantrums. That’s exactly where I want to be.
There is still a fair way to go before I will trade my narcissistic lifestyle for something more nurturing and wholesome. But in the meantime I’ll stir up my delightful cousins and harbour a generous respect for their fearless parents.