How my parents entertain my baby (but it's really for them)
Philippa Wintle suspects that her parents enjoy babysitting games more than her baby does.
I looked forward to, but also dreaded, my maternity leave. I’m not naturally maternal, and generally find other people’s kids challenging. That has changed somewhat since breeding, but, generally speaking, I’m just not mumsy. I also love working, and have loved it ever since I was a 14-year old with terrible eyebrows, making smoked chicken, cranberry and brie panini, and other late-90s delights, in my first job as a kitchen hand.
I was nervous about taking time away from work, but I was so enormously pregnant that I was largely immobile and stupid from fatigue and in excruciating pelvic pain. The only thing I could do was leave, and rest - and by ‘rest’ I mean reconditioning my bathroom vanity with decibel-excessive power tools, until my waters broke in a terrible mess and I was forced to give up the DYI, albeit temporarily. Incidentally, sawdust and amniotic fluid is a terribly gluggy combination, and quite hard to scratch out of the carpet.
Initially, I reveled in the precious time I had away from work, and bonded extremely well with my wee babe, something I am very grateful for, knowing how many new mothers, particularly those with PND, find this initial chemistry slow going.
As Archy became bonny and responsive and playful and challenging, and as the games in my kete became fewer and more and more boring, I called on my parents, two strange, beautiful creatures, revered for their eccentricities and fruit chutney. Nuna and Papa are always at my rescue and after some observation I can conclude with confidence that the entertainment they provide for their grandson is largely for their own childish stimulation.
My father, Archy’s Papa, has invented a game called ‘commando’. The objective is simple: he places Archy at one end of the hall and commando crawls towards him. Archy, in turn, commando crawls toward his Papa. They meet in the middle and have a pretend wrestle. They both win, and there is intense laughter, none of which is coming from Archy, all of which is coming from my tiny, wiry, 68-year old (I think) father. Commando is an excellent game, not patented yet I believe. I recommend it after - not before - vacuuming.
My mother plays the ukulele. She is in a band called The Highly Strung Ukelele Ladies. They have gigs and wear ‘bling’. Mum, or Nuna (the name affectionately coined after an autocorrect text sign-off from ‘mum’ became ‘nun’ and evolved to ‘Nuna’) naturally plays her uke to Archy. One Sunday morning when we were staying at my parents house, I went downstairs and generously popped Archy on their bed, allowing my husband and I a sleep-in until 6.30am. I could hear her playing to him through the floorboards. Archy was squealing with delight, although on reflection I am not confident that the garbled incoherent squawking belonged to my infant child, or Nuna. Regardless, there was delight to be heard and it warmed my little heart. There is no better sound than the sound of your own delighted child - not anyone else’s. (We’ve covered that).
My parents take their role as Nuna and Papa even more seriously than I took my 1998 kitchen-hand responsibilities. Even though I trailblazed with panini and those crunchy noodles that appeared on top of every salad for a period of time, and my very, very tiny eyebrows, my two slightly mad, adorable parents are blazing trails with my little human, developing his love of terrible acoustic music and wrestling.
I am incredibly fortunate to have the support I do. Archy is so very lucky indeed to have second parents in his Nuna and Papa, two funny old ducks whose games are self-serving in the very best of ways.
Image posed by models