In the days before child, I had no idea what “teething problems” actually meant. I now realise I used this expression inappropriately and totally out of context. My misuse of this phrase was a bit like when I said “my boss got a little bit tipsy” at a Sales Conference, to save his backside and my career.
Now there were many ways I could have explained his alcohol fuelled, rather adult version of the Conga and amorous advances towards Sheila from Head Office. I could have quite correctly said he was off his trolley, drunk as a skunk or even rat arsed but trust me he was way beyond tipsy. And my use of the word tipsy was way beyond an understatement.
Similarly when I worked for the same company and we moved to a new CRM system, Customer’s orders were arriving pretty much everywhere except where they should be. I used to apologetically explain to said customers we were experiencing “teething problems”.
I thought I was acknowledging the problem while trying to play it down. Looking back though “teething problems” was probably an accurate and realistic description of the chaos and unhappiness incurred.
I also remember when I started work at this company, being told I was given projects to “cut my teeth” on. The implication being that the projects were easy, as was, cutting teeth. In hindsight the work I was given wasn’t so bad but looking back at the whole teething process, well there was certainly nothing easy about that.
When I had my first baby, Izzie and teething was on the horizon, I hung on to every word The Health Visitor said, as you do. I was genuinely fascinated to find out that a teething babies saliva is acidic, to cause the cells in the gum around the tooth to die, separate and allow the new tooth to emerge. Even the process doesn’t sound very simple, does it?
So I watched helplessly as all four of poor Izzie’s cheeks turned bright red and teeth slowly yet painfully began to emerge. I fruitlessly rubbed Anbesol on her sore gums, gave her cold teethers to bite on and we both regularly relied on my new best mate Calpol.
Looking back Izzie let me off lightly, as she’s the sort of child who can be screaming one minute yet when offered a lolly, book or any other bribe or distraction will happily forget the reason behind her chagrin.
Jemima is a much more sensitive soul. You name it from terrifying nappies to horrific behaviour, Jemima’s had it covered.
Interestingly, while we’re on the subject of bad behaviour, I do find it amusing how some parents use teething to explain away pretty much anything negative that takes place during the baby years. At The Den Of Iniquity that is The Indoor Soft Play Centre, a big, bruiser, baby shoved Jemima so he could nick the toy she was playing with.
It happens and I take my girls there to strengthen their character and immunity systems, as well as have fun but it made me smile when his Mum came over and just said “he’s teething” as if this absolved the child from perhaps saying “sorry” or behaving nicely. My wisdom teeth are coming through, wonder if I could get away with shoving my way to the front of the Supermarket queue because “I’m teething”?
Jemima thankfully, is finally cutting her back molars so we’re on the home run of the teething shenanigans and I’m sure will be venturing on to much scarier phases. I realise teething is absolutely necessary and isn’t so bad but I am alternately irritated and entertained by the clichés that make it sound so easy. And it doesn’t stop at teeth.
Another expression that is used totally out of context is “sleeping like a baby”. If this is supposed to entail sleeping soundly then the person who invented this one, clearly never had a baby. Or have I got it wrong and it means “sleeping like an insomniac with a very troubled mind, who’s just watched a horror film and has an extraordinarily uncomfy bed”?
When Izzie was born we had almost every sleep inducing contraption available. At bedtime we used to jiggle, cajole and even beg her to sleep until finally she screamed herself into a fitful, short nap. And when she eventually passed out she had a look on her face that said “you may have won this battle but the war against sleep is far from over”.
And what about “it’s as easy as taking candy from a baby?” Really? Or again am I missing some sort of irony? When Jemima was about one, my Mother In Law gave her, her first bag of Chocolate buttons. Jemima savoured a couple then I put the rest of the packet in my handbag.
Later Jemima rummaged in my bag and found the open packet. I tried to grab it from her and was amazed at the strength and determination of my one year old daughter. It turned into a farcical tug of war until the buttons predictably scattered everywhere and Jemima glared at me with disdain as if to say “I thought you loved me”. There’s nothing easy about taking candy or indeed crisps from my baby.
I guess there is truth in some clichés though, it is true my girls “are growing up too fast”. The baby years so far have been extraordinarily challenging mixed with varying degrees of hard work but they have consistently been great fun. So the most appropriate cliché I find to explain these early years is that “nothing worth doing is easy”.