The company of other mums is fantastic, a real support network – a chance to realise that there are a whole host of other unfortunate people in the same leaky, uncomfortable, precarious and unseaworthy boat as you. (This boat, by the way, is the good ship Parenting. I get a little sea sick on it and I’ve lost the goddamn oars).
And yet. And yet. Get a group of mums (a fatigue of mothers?) together and there can occur something a little less palatable, a little more divisive. I call it oneupmumship. Mums who just can’t help but boast about their offspring. Of course, every mum and dad wishes that the embodiment of their combined genes will be a perfect specimen of a human being, a wish that lasts usually about a fortnight at which point you can’t help but momentarily hate your baby for not having the skill to sleep through the night. And every day you realise that your child moves a little further away from perfection, slowly but surely. So all that is left is oneupmanship: your child may not be perfect, but as long he is better than someone else’s child, some comfort can be had.
Waiting to see the health visitor recently, I eaves-dropped on a conversation between two mums:
“My son walked at nine months, he was a really early walker.”
“Really? Wow. Mine was crawling at five months.”
“Oh, mine didn’t bother to crawl. He just walked at nine months. And a week later, literally, he ran. Proper running. Literally.”
At which point a silence fell in the waiting room. The woman who was suddenly contemplating that her baby must practically be a retard for not running a marathon by ten months could not muster up a reply to top that. But of course, there was an appropriate response:
Fuck. Right. Off.