Saturday, 3 January 2009
The babies and the oldies
When I moved to Sydney this suburb had very few little children. The trendy area is further down the road from us, and generally has had lots of young people pouring in to enjoy the cafes, restaurants and shops. But you did not see many kids. I was a Census collector in 2001 and in my collection area I remember that only two households had new babies. One of them had a sign by the door telling callers not to knock or ring the doorbell. The mother must have been nervous and sleep deprived. Weren't we all!
This has all changed. There are babies everywhere and little kids. We all exclaim about how many babies there are now. We live on a corner and our side street is populated by the elderly. There's us, and across the lane lives an old lady in her nineties. There have been a couple of deaths in the past couple of years of people who'd lived in the same small and rather decrepit houses for about sixty years. Once they die the houses are sold and the renovations start. Opposite us is a young family with one child who is now about four. No signs yet of another child, and as both parents work full time, it seems unlikely. Sometimes a grandmother comes to visit. There is another couple with a small child in the street. I have not yet spotted who lives in the renovated houses.
But when you walk along the main street there are mothers and babies everywhere. Our area is becoming more trendy, and now it seems that every other place is a cafe or restaurant. The social life of local mothers is very active. The trade in babycinos must be profitable. The local primary school is well attended. And we now have a shop that sells children's shoes, and a baby wear shop as well.
It is very pleasant seeing all these babies and littlies. Perhaps once we become grandmothers, or get to that certain age, we become very susceptible to the charms and appeals of babies. You want to, and do, smile at them and coax a response from them. You rush to help mothers with prams on and off buses, and hold doors open for them. You dodge the little ones meandering all over the footpaths. You watch how the fathers come out at the weekend and carry the children on their shoulders. And you watch and wonder at the extraordinary development of babies in their first few years, and marvel at how their minds open up and absorb and learn so much. They start off as helpless little bundles, but their bodies know how to suck, what hands and legs are for, and that making a noise is a good way to communicate.
Maybe because I have lacked the frequent and regular contact with my grandchildren that would have happened if we lived in the same city I feel extra susceptible to babies. On the other hand it seems to me that after our children have grown up, and we've had some years for ourselves without active child care responsibilities, we rediscover the appeal of babies and young children. And so we love our grandchildren and those of our friends. Perhaps we are hearkening back to the past when grandmothers were so actively involved in the cycles of family life. Perhaps in fact it is genetic.