The Kindergarten method of contraception

My maternal instinct has always leant towards a more stereotypically manly side of the spectrum; I love children, get on with them tremendously and find them often adorable but when confronting the question of having my own in any other real-life context than ‘some day maybe’ my maternal instinct coughs a lot, changes the subject and then turns on the TV. It is a huge decision and I am not going to cement my intentions on something so significant so early in my life, particularly while I am still such an indecisive person that I can spend a good half-hour in the supermarket trying to choose between regular oranges and blood oranges. However, like many of my colleagues, here our job comes to the rescue in allowing us daily access to a wide and exciting variety of small children ready to pound any inclination to become a parent down into the dust. It is astonishing how many of us in my company admit that their attitudes to kids and parenthood have changed (not necessarily permanently, but we shall see) since starting to work with them. Before I began working with infants, I had no idea, for example, quite how disgusting they can get. I am currently ill once again since on Monday a child literally and suddenly coughed directly into my open mouth; said infant was positively dripping with opaque green mucous and by the end of the lesson her entire face had a nauseating glistening sheen, completely coated with the various unhealthy fluids she was leaking. Today a child I do not even teach was so overcome with affection for me that he simply had to embrace me, which was unfortunate considering that he was so covered in food and snot that it looked like he had been sneezed on by a feasting dinosaur. He was unnervingly damp, too, and as with all the kids like this (and there are many) they always seem to want to hug you exclusively with their mouth and hands .

This line of work has also awakened me to the rather sad thought that while children are precious and the time during which they are little and wild and creative is short, a lot of what they do and produce during this time is sadly unremarkable. All of the ‘gifts’ I am given are so rubbish and apathetically produced that I can’t bring myself to stick them on the fridge: I have received, in the past, a blank sheet of paper with one edge coloured sky blue, a scribbled maelstrom which had then been folded and glued sixty times until it was no more than a rock-hard clump of frantically coloured Pritt-Stick, and my personal favourite came yesterday when I was given as a ‘present’ a hinged paper model of the human jaw that they had clearly had to make in science class. Presumably when one is a parent one sees golden potential in everything your child does, but how much of this flotsam can you save before you have to make the heart-breaking first ever decision to throw one of these bits and pieces in the bin? 

One thing that has not changed about my attitude to children, of all ages, is their immense capacity to be hilarious and ingenious completely out of the blue. All it takes is the right word, the right tone, the right idea, and within seconds you have their gleaming smiles and wide eyes fixed solely upon you and within milliseconds they will be having their own mind-blowing ideas to suggest to you. I have had to promise one class that they will all be getting hand-made (‘gebastelt’) tiger masks as a surprise present for Easter because they honestly looked so hopeful and joyful when asking for this present that refusing would have been cruel. Don’t ask me where they got the idea from in the first place but they have mentioned it every minute of every class every week since. I also particularly like that children are unashamed to be completely in love with something they do – this seems to cause a kind of insane tunnel-vision where nothing else seems important or fun, to the point where one of my pupils actually chose not to go on a school trip to the natural history museum because she didn’t want to miss out on the ‘points’ that I give the kids who arrive to their lesson on time.

But I’m not about to pretend that this post is in any way going to be a balanced argument or have an open conclusion. As it is, I feel like most of my colleagues; working all day with little children is making me want to fling my uterus into the nearest ditch. When you have your own, you can love them and care for them and have them as a little project. When you teach other people’s, all you see day after day is a parade of bored, crying, gooey, whiney, eye-infectiony faces and you don’t get to do the best things, like reading the bedtime story or giving the christmas presents or helping them learn to swim. And I’m a cynic, so I am going to assume that those things are all overrated anyway.

Rose T