Design flaws: what Planet Earth II taught me about babies

Images of these crawling dickheads come via the BBC’s magnificent natural history unit, obvs.

Well, 2016 was a tough one, right? All kinds of horrors. But I’m pretty sure we can all agree that the most bone-chilling thing we all saw last year, the crowning horror, was Iguana vs Racer Snakes on Planet Earth II.

Lest we forget, the baby iguana here is, like, in its first few moments of life beyond the egg when it must outrun infinite slithering hellbastards (who are called ‘racer snakes’, FFS, not ‘dawdling, you’ll probably be alright little lizard, snakes’) just to get to a pretty shitty looking piece of rock. At which point it will already be able to swim, leaving the snakes to mutter “whatevs, we weren’t trying anyway,” as they skulk off.

Now, that’s a serious amount of living in your first few minutes. By comparison, Kitty’s first few minutes of life involved me hamfistedly cutting the umbilical cord, burbling something incoherent about ‘just like bacon, hurrhurr’ as I did so, and then being wrapped in some nice blankets. An iguana should be so lucky.

Her life skills extended as far as oozing out some treacly meconium and a half-hearted cry. Maybe the odd fist waggle. Reflecting on baby / iguana comparisons, I couldn’t help but think that babies – beautiful though they may be – do come with some unhelpful design flaws.


  • Inability to outrun bastard fucking snakes. Not essential in the UK, but, you know. Still.

  • Faulty feeding mechanisms, pt1. It took eight weeks to persuade Kitty that food of any kind is in fact delicious. We tried feeding cups, breast alignment contortions, lunatic support pillow architecture, a tongue tie operation and some profound sobbing. Once she got the hang of it she rewarded Dr T’s infinite patience and perseverance by reaching up and twisting her nipples during feeds, as often as possible.

  • Faulty feeding mechanisms, pt2. Give a snow leopard cub some food and it will know what to do. Babies? What they’ll do is throw pasta behind them with such force that it hits the TV screen on the other side of the room. They’ll also secretly mush avocado into your jeans at the crotch, so that when you eventually notice that you look like you have a festering martian STI leaking out of you, you’ll have been at the playgroup for half an hour. But bowl to mouth? Forget it.

  • Being unable to walk, despite being a biped. Elsewhere on Planet Earth II, box-fresh little Nubian Ibex gleefully scramble up and down near-vertical cliffs, outfoxing, well, a fox, while they’re at it. Meanwhile, despite being born into a species whose defining feature is walking upright, babies spend months trying to climb up the dog and faceplanting on sharp edges, with no sign of walking. Three months and counting, in Kitty’s case.

  • Waking the goddamn hell up for two hours in the middle of the miserable winter night. Do you see bear cubs pulling that shit on their hibernating mothers? That’s a one-way ticket to ‘Wow, it sure is noisy out here in the snow with all these wolves.’

There are, of course, a few genius design elements that offset these flaws and serve to further Kitty’s existence:

  • The smile and head-tilt. Whenever I’m inclined to lob Kitty into the recycling, she deploys the smile and head tilt, which renders all previous rage empty and useless.

  • The infertility stomp. An upgrade to the passion-killing sleep deprivation trick, the stomp incapacitates my gentleman area and guarantees there will be no siblings to threaten Kitty’s dominion over our lives.

  • The emotional amplifier. In the nine months or so since I became a father, I have entirely lost control of my emotional failsafes when it comes to anything dad/child related. I’m sure this is down to some hormone babies secrete. So, when the spider monkey baby fell from the tree and its dad had to rescue it by building a bridge with his body, there I was, blubbering on the sofa and sobbing something about ‘I’d bridge the gap for you, too’ as all my Dad Gauges soared up to 11. Well played, baby.

I daresay other design flaws will be revealed as we go along. In the meantime I’ll keep reminding Kitty that, while it is indeed unfair that she’s not allowed to pull all the magazines from the shelf down onto my head, it could be worse. She’s got me to pick her up if the Racer Snakes come.

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