Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Lesson of the famous crabs

On our last night in Pa's hometown, we came to learn of a seafood joint of national repute, renowned for its barbecued crabs. We motored to the approximate location given by an Internet search, and found the eatery after a few false starts.

How delicious was the fare? The verdict was a generally positive one. But what really made an impression was how the existence of this 'famous eatery' had somehow eluded both Pa's mum, his brother and himself despite the compactness of the town and their long years in residence. It was Pa's sister-in-law, a complete foreigner to the place, who had heard of the restaurant from outsiders, who would drive in just to dine on the crabs.

It shows, if it shows anything at all, that you can't ever know something so well that some aspect or facet of it might yet come to light and surprise you. In fields of scholarship, even the greatest experts can be caught unawares by new knowledge. In life, too - to recycle a cliche - 'the best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley', which is to say that the most careful strategising and plotting can be up-ended by some unexpected twist of fate.

In childcare, too, we figure, the same sentiments are worth holding onto. Poring through parenting tomes or making exhaustive Net trawls may give us a false sense of confidence, a belief that we've anticipated all the possible emergencies and surprises that infants might throw up. But whether it's some weird malady, or quirk of infant conduct, or something too surprising even to characterise in advance, it's better that we adopt the assumption that the unexpected will happen. It makes the whole childcare business more interesting anyway.

Rather like running across some hidden-away restaurant serving challenging, but appetising, fare.