When you're not a parent, one of the things that tends to put you off producing offspring is the noise they make.
Trust me: that's a good thought. You happen to be absolutely right.
Every parent dreams of five minutes' peace. That's proper peace, with a quiet environment and no stress. It doesn't count if you're hiding in the cupboard under the stairs, clutching a mug of tepid tea and trying not to sob too loudly, as THE TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE SCREAMS float up the hallway.
It's hard to describe just how the flesh can creep when your own child lets rip with a teeth-rattling shriek. Of course, any parent reading this knows perfectly well how stress levels can go from nought to 60 in 6.2 seconds at the merest hint of a squeak from the tiny people.
Children: a guide to identification
When he's in a good mood, this is what my little boy looks like:
When he is hungry, this is what he sounds like:
If H. P. Lovecraft had written children's books
Then there's the variety of noises involved. Parents learn to identify different types of crying, in the same way that early man could identify how close a wolf was by the sound of its blood-chilling howls.
Apart from the hungry cry, there's the making-a-crying-noise-but-not-really-crying cry, which indicates your child has simply decided to be a pain in the backside today. Supernanny tells you to ignore it but nerves only last so long before they snap like a rotten rope swing.
Then there's the I-won't-go-to-sleep cry, which I get a lot. When you inevitably capitulate and pick the little nightmare up, you know you're simply hitting the reset button and it will all begin again when you leave the room. You just can't help it.
Or how about the change-my-nappy cry? That's a particularly tough one, as it's hard to identify and can sound like the others - but leads to massive guilt when you catch the stink of a sleeping, tear-streaked child. Yes, children make you feel guilty even when they're not conscious.
Finally, there's the mother of them all: the genuine I'm-badly-injured-and-bleeding-everywhere cry. Often, this is used as bait for a child who has, in fact, not severed his own arm with a defective teddy bear, but you don't half react when you hear it. They should use injured children to train our Olympic sprinters. Hmmm... perhaps not.
Yes, it's your fault somehow
The simple truth is that a parent is designed, at a genetic level, to look after his or her offspring. It's nature's way of dissuading us from wandering off for a pint of vodka in the mid-morning. Yes, we make the choice to look after our children because we want to, but to some extent Mother Nature has already made the choice for us.
It's gone quiet now. I'm hoping Makka Pakka has calmed things down a bit. I've spilled my tea in my groin in the dark but it was worth it to escape for a while. I think my breathing has returned to normal.
Wait... what's that scratching?
I hope it's only rats in the walls.