I met my friend Polly yesterday at the pool. Polly is a teacher at one of the more pretentious preschools here, and she’s getting pretty exhausted by the parents.
“I have to make believe like every child is special to their parents,” she said. “It’s a gigantic pain in the arse, since most of them aren’t. If there’s nothing off-the-charts special about the kid’s academic achievement, the parents will try and make out that he’s special in some other way. Like, one mother has already been in touch with me, even though school doesn’t start for another three weeks, to talk about her son. She told me, ‘I just thought I should tell you that Brendan’s mother and I are in a same-sex relationship and his uncle was the sperm donor. And I am just hoping that the unique circumstances of his conception will not alienate him from the rest of the class.’”
Polly continued: “I just said, ‘Oh, I’m sure Brendan’s situation isn’t that unusual and he will fit in just fine.’”
“I bet she didn’t like that,” I said.
“No, of course she didn’t. She didn’t even seem to want Brendan to fit in. She wanted him to be special.”
So, there we were, laughing our heads off about this, when Polly said, “Uh-oh, here comes someone whose kid is going to be in my class in the fall.”
“You mean Nicola? Oh, poor you, she’s cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.”
Nicola came up to us. She’s got this weird manner about her, in that she always stares over your shoulder while she’s talking to you. She’s one of those people who has simply never gotten the message that I think she’s a tedious nutcase.
Nicola said, “Where’s Scarlett? I just see Sausage in the pool.”
“Oh, Scarlett’s been staying in Vienna with my mother for the past few weeks.”
“Really?” Nicola replied, aghast, as if I’d told her Scarlett was working sixteen-hour days at a sweat shop.
“Yes, quite a relief, just having to look after the one, you know! I bet you couldn’t spend even one night away from your daughter, Anna, could you?”
“Probably not, but not because I couldn’t bear to be parted from her,” replied Nicola. “It’s just that I’m still nursing.”
Right. Bear in mind that Anna is four and a half years old. Nicola went on, “And I would hate to artificially break up that nursing relationship before she was ready to give it up.”
“I must say, I simply don’t get this stuff about nursing a four-year-old,” I said. “I mean, you advocates of extended breast feeding always point to third-world countries, where women nurse for much longer than we do in the West, making out that’s the ‘natural’ way. But they only do that because there is often no other adequate nutrition for the child other than breast milk. And since there are many other sources of nutrition here, why nurse for more than one or two years?”
“Oh, none of this was planned,” replied Nicola. “I thought I would give up after about a year.”
“Believe me, you would have if you’d had biters like I did. They practically chewed my nipples off, so I weaned them both at once.”
Nicola ignored me and continued to ramble. “But since Anna did not choose to wean at one year, I decided to keep going. And here we are, still nursing!”
More like, you didn’t want to give it up, is what I didn’t say. This mother is at the upper echelons of overprotective. You know the type—they have to stand by the slide while their kid is using it, in case, oh, I don’t know, the child falls off the slide and kills itself, an all too common occurrence in playgrounds today.
Well, after Nicola had chewed Polly’s ear off about what an advanced reader Anna was and could Polly possibly let her start on War and Peace (okay, maybe I am exaggerating a tad here), because Anna’s already reading at a first grade level, she eventually sodded off. I rolled my eyes at Polly.
“You do know that you’ll have to tell Nicola that because her child is so special and has such a special nursing relationship with her mum, that Nicola is welcome to come to the classroom and breastfeed her daughter any time. Tell her that the school wants to nurture their special relationship.”
Polly looked a bit scared. I was joking, but I think Polly was wondering whether it was not so far-fetched that Nicola might turn up in the classroom one day and lift up her shirt, ready to breast-feed her special child.
By Emma Kaufmann