Friday, July 15, 2011

Children are rubbish, but we can rebuild them

It is a source of constant astonishment to me that children are so badly designed.

Yes, I know all that stuff about cells splitting and fish crawling out of oceans and weird hairy things evolving in trees but that's not what I mean. I'm talking about the way children are apparently designed to be at maximum risk of terrible injury - or of driving a parent into a state of mental collapse - at any given moment. I know they're a miracle, but would it be really selfish for me to suggest they could be a little more miraculous?

Yes. Yes it would. But I'm going to do it anyway. Here is how children can be improved. Scientists, please take note. I shall expect you round my house immediately with some scalpels and impressive-looking glass jars.


Haud yer wheesht, or I'll haud it for ye

Let's start with the obvious one: making a child shut up.

There are a number of ways to cope with the chatter of a small child. A patient person (i.e. a non-parent who is trying to impress someone) will hunker down to a child's level and actually feign interest in whatever the little monster is saying, then pretend they are neither disappointed nor disgusted by it.

A more sensible person (i.e. anyone who has spent more than an hour alone with a child and is now eyeing their own hairline suspiciously in the mirror) will tune a child out. This is surprisingly easy, but is not a permanent solution - because eventually the child's voice will filter through or they will attract your attention with a wooden toy to the temple. Worse still is the later discovery - usually in the company of appalled adults - that some general, non-committal noise you made has been taken as a cast-iron promise that it's permissible to carry some steak knives up a tree while eating an entire chocolate cake. Made of poison.

No, the only solution is to stop the noise at source. Yelling will do the trick but you might be blamed for the emotional trauma later. See also fitting a gag and/or muzzle. It would be better to invent a working mute button. Science, I demand that you find the answer. Er... that's all I've got. Let's move on.


Verily, prevention is better than cure, sirrah

Just this week, I watched three tiny children comparing knee scabs while waiting for the start of their swimming lesson. Each was entirely relaxed about the injuries involved because, of course, children are convinced they are indestructible. Nearby, several parents watched in silent terror. Surely there is a better way?

Oh yes: armour. It's often said that we can't wrap our children in cotton wool, but why the hell not? Has anybody tried it? I say we should.

What we need is some sort of padded armour that grows with them, like a tortoise's shell. I would also be willing to use some powerful adhesive - preferably one that isn't soluble in water or bubble bath - to attach some sort of padding to knees, elbows, posterior and head. Whatever lets me get a cup of tea in peace.

Failing that, there are dusty suits of armour filling museums and stately homes all over the country, and doing nothing more useful than amusing tourists for a few seconds. I say they would be put to better use protecting our children from themselves. We could even get them sponsored. I'd happily paint a logo on the back of both of mine. Get in touch, Apple, if you're up for it.


You'll never make it stick

Here's another thing: children don't half get in a mess. I mean a proper mess. We all remember being grubby children but back then we were the scrubbees, not the people doing the scrubbing. Trust me: sometimes you worry that you're going to hurt them. All the while, the child is screaming and dribbling unspeakable substances and thrashing around and getting in an even worse mess. It's probably the circle of life or something.

But this nightmare need not continue. If only some inventor was to create a way of ensuring children don't get dirty. Yes, I'm talking about a Teflon coating.

According to my extensive research that was in no way limited to a quick Google, such a coating tends to be applied to things like metal and would very possibly hurt a human being during the application process, but I'm sure the world's geniuses can find a way round that.

Then we can have ever-fragrant children, and our days of scraping dried-up poo from the backside of a child who ran away and hid at the worst possible moment will be over. Also, jam salvaged from their faces would, in theory, be reusable. That's a win at both ends.


The Island of Doctor Morose

So let's recap. We have a silent, steel-clad child who can withstand temperatures of more than 300 degrees celsius - like a miniature Robocop - and a parent who is ignoring the child utterly and eating all the biscuits.

It is perhaps possible that some sections of society might consider this amoral, and even accuse the parent of playing God. Well, to most parents "God" isn't so much a deity as a wail that goes up sometime around 4am when you've just been woken for the ninth time.

Also, if the creator or evolutionary process or whatever combination of those you happen to believe in had done the job properly in the first place we wouldn't be having this discussion, would we? Children would slide, all metallic and heat-proof, down the birth canal and immediately start earning money so their fathers could retire and go and sit in the shed.

Now, if I can only think of a way to fix teenagers...

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