On the whole, new parents enjoy communicating with anyone whose vocabulary extends beyond “dadadada”, “eeah” and the odd cacophonous burp. But every now and then someone with a decent command of the English language will say something that makes us want to: a) cry ourselves to sleep, b) put our hands over our ears and start chanting “lalalalalalalala”, or c) destroy the room and all its contents. Want to avoid inducing one of these three reactions? Then steer clear of the following phrases…
1. “We’re going to have to cancel the night out.”
Uh-uh. No way. No. First, we really need this. Second, getting this date in the diary took more planning than the first Gulf War. So if you think we’re just going to “take a rain check” because you have bird flu and the town we were going to go out in has flooded, you have another thing coming. This night out is happening, whether we have to come over and drag you out of bed or not.
2. “Have you tried?”
We do appreciate that you are only attempting to help. But our kid has been alive for 11 months and he has been teething for about half of them. So, yes, we’ve tried gel. And granules. And Calpol. And sachets. And rain dances. And Sophie the bleeding giraffe. But do you know what? None of them worked. Which is why we’re singing endless renditions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in the booze aisle of Lidl at 8am.
3. “Your flight is delayed.”
Note: that’s not delayed by 30 minutes, which would allow us to go and find somewhere to heat up the food we’d planned to feed him on the plane. Or delayed by two hours, which would give us an idea as to whether we should put him to sleep or not. It’s just delayed for a undetermined length of time, meaning we don’t know whether to whip down his nappy by the departure gate, or hike a couple of miles to the airport’s only, and almost definitely engaged, baby change. The only sliver of good news is new mums and dads are always on the same page and when it comes to this sort of decision-makin… …hold on. What do you mean my wife is at the gate, asking for a nappy sack, looking stressed and trying to comfort a distraught child? I’m halfway to the baby change…
4. “Did you see…?”
Stop right there. Unless you’re about to end your sentence with “the error message that’s been on your TV screen for four days after your son pressed a button you have no idea how to counteract”, the answer is no.
5. “He seems like he’s in a great mood.”
In sport, the ‘commentator’s curse’ sees a team or player make a total balls up immediately after a TV or radio analyst praises their ability or performance. In parenting, it sees a child turn into a deranged lunatic the second after a well-meaning friend mentions how happy or smiley they are. Conclusion? For the sake of both our eardrums, please keep any behaviour-related admiration to yourself.
6. “We can’t give you any hot water.”
We might accept coffee shops’ warming up milk health & safety tripe a little more calmly if… they didn’t also serve scalding cups of tea, coffee, hot chocolate etc.
7. “Has he started to walk/talk/crawl/sit up/eating by himself yet?”
Unless you can categorically see that someone’s baby has hit a certain landmark, it’s best to plump for a different topic of conversation. Why? Simple. Because although your friend might smile and say “not yet”, inside they’ll be thinking: ‘Wait should he of? Oh my God, our son’s lagging behind. I knew it. I knew it. It’s all my fault. I should have played him more classical music in the womb.’
8. “I gave him a bit of…”
You’re looking for praise, aren’t you? Well, you’re looking in the wrong place, pal. We mean. What the? We’ve been carefully crafting his diet for the last six months, introducing him to tastes and textures, ensuring that he gets exactly the right amount of nutrients at exactly the right times and trying to keep him away from sugar. And then, in the length of time it took us to get to and from the car, you go and shove a piece of cake in his gob. We don’t care if the caramel was salted and the apple came from an award-winning orchard. Your visitation rights are being revoked.
9. “Do you have any idea who the father/mother is?”
Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Not really. We know this is supposed to be a joke. But we’re covered in various bodily fluids, running on four hours sleep a night and absolutely gutted that our offspring looks nothing like us. So, too soon, dude. Way too soon.