This article has been contributed anonymously under the pen name “Howgirl Cowgirl”.
I’m a bit of a hippy at the best of times, there’s no denying that. So it’s no wonder that, when faced with the prospect of raising babies, I like to break convention and embrace new age ideas. My poddy calves were the perfect subjects to practice on.
I’ve often donned that smugness in my stride as I breezed past bedraggled mothers in Woolies, one screaming child threatening to spontaneously combust on her hip, the other playing skittles with the promo display in aisle four. I’ve too quickly passed judgement on those mums who look like they’ve been up for weeks on end, turning beet red as their kid asks the fat man at Baker’s Delight if he’s pregnant. I’ve seen women employing the most advanced ninja skills, coupled with some mighty fine negotiating and mafia-esque bribery, just to get their kids to put pants on.
I was never going to be one of those mothers. My kids would be born angelic, would know how to speak several different languages before they could walk, they’d be schooled in world politics and be so polite you’d almost blush. Motherhood would be a breeze. My kids would have the freedom to explore their own identities, to creatively express themselves….all I had to do was be a good role model. Right?
Forget giving 15-year-olds plastic babies to care for in Home-Ec class. Give them a poddy calf, and watch their narcissistic dreams of raising miniature versions of their perfect selves crumble faster than Nanna’s apple pie. Mine did.
Gary was my first. It started out like any idealistic introduction to motherhood. He drank regularly, he was sweet and affectionate, loved to be with me. I tried to help him blossom by giving him room to explore, to develop his own personality, to not ever limit him with a “No”, but to instead help him find confidence in the world aided by a bunch of “Yes”. Now is probably a good time to mention I was anti-smacking. So I would never, ever, hit for discipline. I tried to impart wordly wisdom on my little calf with what would be considered a very Montessori approach.
Then Gary grew up. In to an ass.
It started with his enthusiasm for his bottle, which quickly escalated in to him flattening me for a feed. Then there was the head butting. The constant wailing for attention. He had the freedom to express himself, yet for some reason he only chose to express his negative qualities. Amplified.
There were tantrums, kicking, no respect for personal space. I thought I would try the crying out method – let him dissolve in his puddle of calf-tears until he exhausted himself and realised that it wasn’t an appropriate way to get my attention. I sat on the veranda, reading a magazine, listening to his angry bleats from the yard. I commended myself for my strength and settled back to enjoy the sunset, with the woe-is-me orchestra firing up in the background. Half an hour passed. He was still going. Darkness descended, bed time drew near. I crawled under the covers. The little bugger still wasn’t showing any signs of letting up.
Just before midnight, I cracked. With pillow lines crinkled in to my cheek, bed hair and weary eyes, I dragged myself to the chook yard, stumbled sideways as he launched his skull against my knee, crumpled to the ground against the railing and, with one arm wrapped around legs, propping up my head, I held out my free hand and listened to him smugly sipping away at his bottle. He knew I wouldn’t make it. He knew he’d won. From that moment even the thought of Gary brewed resentment. I saw the devil in his eyes. The devil my post-feminist new-age tree-hugging hippy cripe had created.
After Gary there was Fertiliser. The First, Second and Third. I’m blaming that on some sort of bovine virus. The Boss didn’t fancy their chances even before he gave them to me, but he thought he’d at least give them a fair go.
Then there was Buster. Good ol’ Buster, bless his cotton calf socks. Seeing as Gary had annihilated my dreams of being super-Mum, all Buster ever experienced was pure love and indulgence. Which was great, really, because Buster was a little bit special.
I overheard snide whispers about him around the homestead – smarmy speculation that maybe he’d not got enough colostrum at birth, or maybe just not enough oxygen to the brain. Maybe he had some sort of mental retardation. I heard it all and bit back on maternal lioness tears. Then fled to the chook yard to wrap Buster in a bear hug, all the while ignoring the fact that after two months of parenthood he still looked at me like I had parsley in my teeth, and calling out ‘Buster’ had about as much significance to him as speaking Russian.
I fed him all the mulberry leaves he could stomach. I sang to him. Had my afternoon kips with him. Watched him as he just sort of stumbled around life, a little bit simple like, mulling over his thoughts of if he was indeed a calf, or a duck, or perhaps George the shih-tzu’s brother.
Parenthood can wait I think. Until the day when I can raise a poddy to be a shining example of a well rounded cow my womb shall stay barren, and my head buried inside any parenting material I can get my mits on. Amen.