Mumkind's Most Beneficial Inventions.


I was washing the lettuce and making the salad last night and thinking about humankind’s most beneficial invention of all time, as one does. It was a nice break from thinking about if we had enough cheese for the week’s school lunches, or where my son’s beloved squishy toy called ‘Squishy’ could possibly be. To be honest, ever since Donnie Darko’s girl was given the question as a class assignment, I have spent a curious amount of time thinking about what invention has really been our most beneficial. I remember being deeply intrigued by the answer of ‘soap’ in the movie and wondering what that answer really meant (surely it wasn’t literal? In Donnie Darko?). Was it really about the undeniable benefit germ-killing has had on human health, or was it symbolic of the community trying to sanitize the children’s minds by syllabus censorship and psychiatric medication?  Urgh, thinking, what does it get you? Just more thinking.

Every week or so I decide a different invention is definitely the most beneficial to humankind. Well, perhaps just to mumkind. Or probably just to me.

Of course there are the big and important ones: When we head to the doctor for my kids’ vaccinations it does not escape me that the waiting room is full of children with snotty noses and dry coughs, not ones dying of smallpox, polio and measles. I understand why many say the greatest invention of the civilized world is vaccine and I am deeply grateful for it.

But on most days there are some slightly less applauded inventions that I decide are of immeasurable benefit to my species:

Every morning after the little monkeys shovel half of their weetbix into their mouth and half onto the floor; it is babywipes. Actually, it is babywipes a lot. I sometimes wonder if there is anything they can’t do. I think back to what my mum’s generation did without them and I am led to believe they used to actually mop the floor. Mop! That is some crazy shit.

When I have decided there are some child-habits that need changing, or see moments that simply require a little external motivation; it is Kinder Surprise. What the kids won’t do for one of those suckers! It's an added bonus when they rush to get to the toy inside and discard the chocolate like wrapping paper (which can then be secretly snaffled back into the fridge and used as bribery on another occasion!).

On a Monday evening at 6.59pm; it is wine.

At the start of summer; it is fly swats and flyscreens and fly sprays and things that eat flies (by my favourite inventor of all time – evolution).

When the dentist smiles at me like I’m doing a great job as a mum; it is the Barbie and Spider-man themed electric toothbrushes and sparkly Dora toothpaste.

On a Tuesday evening at 6.59pm; it is wine.

When we are rushing in the morning; it is the Velcro straps on the shoes.

When I look at our lucky little family and think about how one more apple could really upset the whole apple cart; it is the contraceptive pill.

About 475 000 times from when my kids were babies until they were 3 years old; it was the dummy.

On a Wednesday evening at 6.59pm; it is wine.

When the kids ask ‘how does the hair know to grow out of your head?’ and ‘how much does a house weigh?’ and ‘who is that sitting with Jesus having dinner?’ and ‘what was the first word ever said and who said it?’ and every other time I’ve thought ‘why don’t you kids ask easier questions?’; it is Google.

In the morning when I am looking in the mirror; it is concealer, and foundation, and powder, and concealing foundation powder. It makes me think that surely one of humankind's least beneficial inventions is the mirror (an outrageous statement to submariners and astronomers I’m sure).

When my young daughter refuses to suck down any kind of painkilling medicine, regardless of how much pain she is in; it is Panadol suppositories. And gloves.

On a Thursday evening at 6.59pm, or after insertion of said suppositories at any time of day; it is wine. And soap (one for you Mr Darko!).

Sometimes I love an invention one day as much as I loathe it the next. Like high door handles; great when the kids are in time out but not great when I am in the shower and they accidentally shut themselves in their room. Or the mobile phone; great when I am in a meeting and the school calls to let me know my daughter has fallen off the monkey bars and needs to be picked up, but not great when I am out having lunch and the school calls to let me know my daughter has fallen off the monkey bars and needs to be picked up.

One of my all-time-best-ever-ultimate inventions is one of the earliest (at least 18 000 years old) and arguably the most dull.

My first true conscious appreciation for it was one night when our electricity went out in an enormous storm, and our roof started leaking water all through the house.... and my kids had gastro; it is the bowl. On that completely ridiculous night we had no light, no working appliances, and no decent shelter. But we had the one thing we really needed at that moment, and we had plenty of them; bowls. Some catching drips, some catching sick, some holding clean water with clean cloths, some holding dirty water with dirty cloths, some holding tea light candles, and some even left over for the exhausted but healthy folk to have breakfast from in the morning. From then on I see what they have done for us every where I look, their inspiration and evolution is in all manner of things; buckets, bins, toilets, sinks, baths, bags, bottles, baskets, cups, mugs, boxes, drawers, vases, pots, pans, kettles, and of course the glass within which wine is held, the wine glass.

So as I washed that lettuce last night, in a bowl of water, and put it in the salad, in the salad bowl, I thought about one of humankind’s most beneficial and most humble inventions. Then I thought that really the clean fresh running water coming out of the tap was probably more beneficial. Then I remembered Squishy was in the beach bag in the back of the car.

Welcome back Squishy, you were missed.

Welcome back Squishy, you were missed.