Today, I got about 90 minutes’ worth of reminders that I am NOT kid-tolerant. Just because I’m currently shiny with mumsy hormones and feeling all goo-gah over my baby bump does not a lover of ALL children make. Not even close.

How foolish of me. I thought I’d been cured. Lately, Tony and I have been getting a teensy bit mushy every time we pass a baby girl doing anything microscopically adorable (pulling a face, gurgling, digging her nose). Lately, it feels like the invisible veil of awkwardness between me and the babies of strangers has been lifted, and there’s light shining through, and I no longer scare children, and aren’t they all God’s wonderful creatures? It’s been, frankly, liberating.

Yeah. All that kinda died this afternoon at Jenolan Caves.

It all started when Princess Apple Cheeks threw herself on the ground at the cave entrance, and howled like a midget banshee.

OK, rewind. Tony and I have been away since Tuesday on a babymoon. Except, instead of it being restful and packed full of massages and aromatherapy, we ran off to the Blue Mountains and climbed everything. I have now perfected my pregnancy waddle, purely because my calves hurt like the dickens. But I wear my waddle like a badge of honour because hey – 7 months pregnant, and doing the outdoorsy! w00t! 

Our last stop before we turned back for home this afternoon was the caves at Jenolan. We had booked ourselves in a smallish cave that was deep (470m, 358 steps) and required 1.5 hours for the full tour. The fitness level was stated as “average” and although I was keen, my main concern was that I’d hold everyone else up, huffing and puffing up ladders and stairs.

Until we rocked up to the cave entrance and found ourselves in a tour group with five pairs of doting parents… and over a dozen littlelies aged 1 to 12.

Back to the midget banshee.

Princess Apple Cheeks looks adorable. I mean, her father’s Caucasian and her mother’s Asian, and she’s got the best of both their features – her father’s big eyes, light brown hair, pinch-me-hard rosy cheeks flanking her mother’s wide, generous mouth. Which, we found out, she uses frequently and to great effect. She’s just old enough to scream “Mommy” and then all else is unintelligible, so I think she’s about 18 months going on 17 years – because she also thinks she’s boss enough to call the shots. In fact, she does.

She wants to be carried when she’s let down. She wants to be let down when she’s carried. And oh wait, there’s a flight of stairs that’s 56 steps long, but hey – she wants to do those steps all by herself. Never mind that we are in a cave and it’s semi-dark and kinda wet and there’s 15 adults and 12 kids trying the negotiate the same narrow staircase. And oh, if she doesn’t like any decision made by her mother (who, by the way, is as benign as Queen Elizabeth on Prozac, crossed with the Dalai Lama – also on Prozac)… she tests out the acoustics of the cave with lovely, grating effect.

Her oldest sibling, meanwhile, is as attention-seeking as Pauline Hanson and insists on either answering all rhetorical questions made by the poor guide, or raising his hand to ask a question just to be smart. The only kid whose company I enjoyed was the sister – the middle child – who was perfectly content to sit on her father’s shoulders quietly throughout most of the tour, and only asked to be put down when she was in danger of having her head bashed against a cage or a pokey stalectite. Good call.

By the 87th minute of the tour, I was over it. Princess Apple Cheeks was now playing with her daddy’s iPhonesque camera, and was howling every time he wanted to take it off her hands. And instead of wrenching the thousand-dollar thing off her and teaching her that’s the way the world works, the man made this paltry attempt at retrieving his gadget, before getting deflected by yet another authoritative squeal.

The inevitable happened. She dropped-threw the phone. It crashed to the rock-hard ground with a sickening crunch, and Tony winced enough to breathe,

“Well… that was predictable.”

“Oh, that?” smiled the man although his eyes also said, you know nothing. “My phone’s survived far worse.”

And I wanted to scream, “YOU IDIOT! YOU’RE SPOILING HER ROTTEN! YOU WOULD GIVE THAT LITTLE GIRL A HERNIA IF SHE ASKED FOR ONE!” But I didn’t. Because it’s not polite, is it. Because I don’t know any better, do I. I’m not a parent – not of a 7 year old, a 4 year old or a 1 year old. And so I must sit tight and not get lippy.

But lord, did I clock a few lessons in my head this afternoon.

  1. 18-month-old baby girls are not too young to be disciplined. And it’d be better for the whole world if they were.
  2. Don’t let your kids play with any of your electronic gadgets, and then look completely surprised when they wreck it. Duh.
  3. I’m so going to eat my words when I have my own feral baby girl. But until then, I am praying for the perseverance, thick skin, and duty of care to bring up a human being that’s, you know, fun to take holidays with. And if I have to sit out of a cave tour while little missy learns a thing or two about the consequences of throwing gigantic tantrums, then I pray for the discipline to do just that.