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By Harry Kind
Your ankles are swelling, you’re throwing up over your alarm clock and you have an all-encompassing craving for Wotsits, soap and Miracle-Gro; face it – you’re college pregnant. This is undoubtedly one of the most surreal parts of Oxford life, but don’t worry, we’re here to hold your hand every step of the way with our guide to becoming a college parent.
Towards the end of Michaelmas, you inevitably peel yourself out of bed at 3pm after a long night at the Park End Family Planning Centre. While showering off the rancid remains of a Hussain’s you notice a large bruise on your left knee and suddenly the whole night comes back. At the time it seemed like a great idea to get down on one knee and propose to the computer scientist whose only connection to you is a passing interest in the films of Forest Whittaker. But no, you didn’t find love in a hopeless place.
While you may convince yourself that the next year will play out like a charming rom-com/Twilight/Knocked Up this will not be the case. There will be no hilarious consequences. There will be no heartwarming journey. You won’t even get to meet Ken Jeong at the end. Over the course of the year, the two of you will exchange 7 awkward nods, a couple of Facebook pity likes and a stilted conversation about the progress of prelims.
Meanwhile, your college ovum is being college fertilized by a college sperm in a process known as “interviews”. Soon, a little ball of Oxford-accepted, A level studying cells will be a-brewing. That is unless you’ve been shooting blanks with personal statements based entirely around “communication skills” and self-finding gap years.
At this point, there is absolutely nothing you can do about your child except worry you’re going to produce some “We Need to talk about Kevin”-esque monstrosity (/Rosemary’s Baby). Do not. I repeat DO NOT, visit your college’s fresher Facebook page. While it may seem like a good idea to second guess what kind of kid you’ll be getting this will cause more pain than necessary. You will encounter a foetus who knows categorically everything about college life, isn’t afraid to say it and will even argue with current students about subfusc and modules. But don’t go reaching for the wire coat hanger just yet – the chances this over-developped zygote won’t be yours are worth the gamble. Besides, they’ll probably not meet their offer anyway and god will have a good old ironic chuckle about it.
Next comes the final ultrasound scan of A level results day. And, like with an ultrasound, you and your spouse will nervously hold hands and hope the baby doesn’t have a tail (or a closed Facebook profile). This year, results fall on Thursday the 16th of August and so (unless your child is a premature IB-er) you will soon find out the sex, and indeed name, of your child.
So this brings us up to where you are now. Enjoying the relative hibernation that is the Oxford long vac. You couldn’t write a coherent tweet now, let alone a 3 page essay. This is your first proper duty as a parent and is one of the most important. This is your opportunity to bond with your college child. In real life, some women will talk to their bump, bathe in scented oils and place speakers round their waist playing Mozart at full volume. Others will take to the streets in high heels: ciggy in one hand, Stella in the other; a Ginsters pasty delicately balanced on their swollen abdomen. Similarly, in Oxford, some will beautifully handwrite and illustrate a parchment epistle to their future child while others (if they can be bothered to do anything at all) will rattle off a brief Facebook message explaining what prelash means and a warning not to bother them in the library, hall, or most likely, the bar.
However, you want to strike the right balance between these two extremes. Remember to be cheery but not too friendly: the last thing you want is a close friendship with the year’s room-dwelling outcast. Try linking to a few “Oxford for Dummies” type websites and you’ll look incredibly kind with minimal effort. And of course finish with the classic “and if you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask”. They’ll hesitate. Trust me.
Remember those stories in the Daily Mail about someone nonchalantly plopping out a baby while in the loo? Well your child’s birth will be much the same. You’ll meet, you’ll talk, it’ll be awkward. You will recognise them, and they will recognise you, but to reveal as much immediately is to admit that you’ve been performing rigorous Facebook stalking that would make the CIA look sloppy. It’s necessary to ask how they are, if their holidays were satisfactory and then to introduce them to their college sibling. Once they are distracted by their own awkward conversation, you can make good your escape.
The best way of getting to know your offspring is engage in the hallowed “family meal”. Obviously, the child must consume only liquid nutrition before moving onto easily digestible solids and so you must take your child to Subject Drinks. This involves dispelling all the misguided beliefs that your child has about their subject and replacing them with the harsh reality that your subject is a load of rubbish that leads inevitably to a low level job in investment banking.
The family meal however, should be a slightly more upbeat occasion. For this, rendezvous with your college spouse to decide where such a grand event should take place. Don’t be distracted by the fact that the two of you have not spoken for 5 months and concentrate on choosing a restaurant which provides palatable food at a price that won’t intimidate your child. Of course your only real option here is Pizza Hut. For God’s sake don’t go to Jamal’s.
Initially, your child will be a wide-eyed, idealistic, Bambi-esque creature who plans to make the world a better place. Without a doubt they WILL get a first. They will not only join the Union but will also attend all the debates and maybe even run for office. They will row. They will keep their room tidy, organised and pleasantly ylang-ylang scented. They will make their own yoghurt.
It is your job to beat this out of them.
They grow up so fast don’t they? After you’ve seen your progeny stagger across the quad at 4am in the middle of Freshers’ week covered in someone else’s bodily fluids, their halo of innocence will disappear. Suddenly you will realise that this is a person merely months younger than you (and in some weird cases, older). At this point, you may become attracted to them. It’s probably not mutual.
The college family tree is one of the strangest parts of Oxbridge life (quite a claim from a university that boasts a compulsory bowtie for exams) but if you follow our advice then you can succeed where your own college parents failed you. If not, they’ll put you in a home and just hope for a mention in the college will.