The world’s full of ugly babies

I NEVER noticed before how many ugly babies there are.

Stand still for five minutes in any shopping centre and they’ll trundle past you with those revolting dummies stuffed in their flubbery mouths and soppy head bands strangling their questionable brains. Too fat, too big, too blonde, too dark; piggy eyes and funny ears.

I don’t wish them ill, you understand. I mean, I’m sure some of them will grow into respectable and respected members of the community. If they work hard at it.

They may never achieve international greatness, nor even national greatness, but someone will love them.

I suppose.

It’s so unfair, though, don’t you think? We are lucky enough to live in a country where the principles of a level playing field are held in high esteem, but what’s level about entering the world with a face like a cane toad and arms and legs like one of those balloon animals they make for kids in Flinders Mall?

Occasionally, in this world of lumpy asteroids, a star will shine; one that is clearly and undeniably beautiful, whose eyes promise intellectual greatness and whose body is already poised for athletic victories.

It’s funny the effect it has on you when it happens. One is very pleased, naturally, for the child. It must be a big help going through life with all the advantages. But if you’re involved with these prodigies the overwhelming emotions are immense humility (on account of being chosen for the responsibility) and the awesome responsibility itself.

Unless you’re very strong it could blow your mind, turn you into a gibbering imbecile.

How do I know this?

Did I tell you I was a grandfather now? Sage. Eight weeks. A good choice of name. At first I was afraid people would confuse it with herbs but you’ve only got to look at her to see it’s Sage as in sagacity and wisdom.

Another thing that’s remarkable about babies (apart from how many of them are perfectly hideous) is how, occasionally — rarely — you come across one whose good looks are so stunning they actually make it hard to breathe.

She’s one. She said hello to me yesterday, too. Her mother (my daughter) dismissed it as a kind of hybrid yawn-cum-sneeze and me as a doting old fool, but my daughter has always been unnecessarily modest. It was “hello” as clear as a TV news announcer, which is what she might very well become.

Either that or a composer. I heard her singing in her crib yesterday. She ran up and down the scales like a Sibelius or a Mozart. I don’t know how old Mozart was when he composed his first concerto, but boys are generally slower developing than girls. It’s a well-known fact.

But none of this is the point I was getting at. The point is that if you do stand in the supermarket and observe all these ugly and obtuse babies, you’ll also observe their relatives cooing and gushing over them like they were a gift from the gods; like they were mouth-stoppingly beautiful! Or spine-shatteringly clever!

Can’t they see? Are they utterly deranged by familial loyalty! Just because they’re related, that’s no excuse for abandoning completely one’s sense of rational observation.

I’m glad it hasn’t happened to me.