Gary Steel is a baby boomer with a bubba. Today: true love travels on a gravel road
I USED TO bemoan the standard of New Zealand roads, and more specifically, the horrible big chip seal used on all but the swanky areas. The thing is, the road noise experienced in a small, economy car – already hitting sometimes uncomfortable decibel levels – spikes when you’re hooning along typical NZ chip seal roads, which means that if you like hearing music while you travel, you’ve got to turn it up so loud to counteract the road noise level that you might as well be sending out post paid invitations to encourage the attendance of Mr Tinnitus.
These days, however, I love rough chip seal, pot-holes, and off-road conditions. And moreover, I curse the stupidity of whoever it was that came up with the idea of smooth footpaths.
And it’s all because of baby.
As any new parent knows, getting baby to sleep can become an obsession, and if you’ve got a baby who only seems to require a few hours of sleep here and there, and who insists that any time she’s awake everyone else in the house must be standing in abeyance to her every wish, the biting need becomes finding sneaky and effective ways to con the young terror into succumbing to the sandman.
But sand won’t do it, you see, because sand is smooth. The thing is, baby likes it rough. That’s why if you’re attentive late some night when you’re out and about, you’ll notice quite a few cars driving around with Baby On Board signs, usually on the least desirable patches of roadway. That’s because a sleepless baby, when you clamp it in its safety seat and find a stretch of road that resembles one of the thrill rides at Rainbow’s End, will immediately find that the urge to shut both eyes is simply irresistible, and before you know it, she’ll be away with the fairies, regardless of whether she’s in clear and present danger.
And it’s the same thing when we’re out with baby in her stroller. Do you think that legion of parents pushing their strollers around simply want to get from A to B? Have you noticed that some of them are simply rotating in every decreasing circles in an unused and slightly disgusting car parking lot that’s got weeds coming through the tarseal? And have you noticed that the rings under their eyes make them resemble something out of The Walking Dead?
Sometimes, our Little Miss actually deigns to sleep at night, but daytime? Eh what? There’s simply too much going on, and she’s got too many brain splurges and growth spurts and other major issues to deal with, like how to slide off the bouncer in the dining room and somehow roll herself all the way to the kitchen without getting caught up and out of sorts in that horrid play centre, and without actually crawling, because she can’t actually crawl yet. So she kind of does this backwards salamander movement and a number of 360 degree rolls to achieve her aim. Then she’ll get frustrated with her tactile deficiencies, and start screaming like a banshee. That’s when it’s time to get out the stroller, and find those rough stretches of footpath that still exist from the 1950s. Unfortunately, in our small semi-rural township, for every 50 metre stretch of rough footpath, there’s another 100 metres of smooth concrete, and usually within 10 or 15 seconds of hitting the smooth stuff, she’s stirring and starting to grizzle. Give it another 30 seconds and she could wake the dead.
The temptation is to do all our strolling on the actual road. You know, where the cars go. That’s because all the roading in our area is that horrid big chip seal stuff that I used to bemoan but now I love to death, but wish it was plastered all over the footpaths, because I don’t want to be the ultimate bad parent by risking her little life and limbs on a 50kph road dominated by those pimply guys with the big fat exhausts that roar past like proud farts.
There is of course a whole industry that’s mushroomed around getting bubs to sleep. It must be one of the most profitable industries around, because parents are desperate for help, and concern for baby is just one of the reasons. The overriding concern is that with the profound loss of sleep, we’ll get sick, become insane, lose our ability to earn and pay the mortgage… all of which potentially impacts on that little bundle of love. We’ve read a bunch of books and scoured the internet for information on getting baby to sleep, but it’s all contradictory, and what works for one day or one week won’t work the next. What we haven’t done (and please, organise an intervention if I ever do this) is spend vast sums of cash on special programmes designed to get baby to sleep perfectly. I imagine that these programmes do one thing really, really well: strip parents of their hard-earned cash just when they’re at their most vulnerable.
I don’t know why it is that our darling Minay falls instantly asleep when she’s driven or wheeled across a rough surface. Someone said it had something to do with the womb, and I guess that makes sense: spend 9 months in a specific environment and you’re probably going to want to replicate some of that experience in the first few years after you squeeze out of it. And from what I’ve read, that environment involves a lot of rough stuff, as the mother walks around and leads a normal active life; and that it’s a noisy environment, too, which might explain the fact that she can sleep through even the hardest, loudest and nastiest of my Norwegian death metal records.
Just joking. [Well, sort of]. GARY STEEL