As I write this, I am being the baby monitor. Somehow that makes me think of sharp pencils and perfectly square-stacked jotters and pinafores. My sister forgot to bring her (normal, electronic) baby monitor down to my dad’s house, so I am sitting quietly in a darkened room to make sure that lovely nephew keeps breathing and suchlike.
I do find it quite hard not to obsessively check his breathing even from across the room. It is better when he snores. “I aten’t dead!’ the snores say. I keep thinking of Billy Connolly’s sketch about baby monitors but unfortunately if I go to find that on YouTube, that’s a guaranteed wake-up.
I can say for sure that I’ve never felt quite this worry about a child. He slept for rather a long time in the car this afternoon and my sister and I were joking in that not-quite-joking way about ‘should we just check he’s breathing!’ He is way sturdier than when he was born but he still seems so very small in a big world.
Until my nephew was born, I had been very little involved with tiny babies since my little sister was little, and she’s only 6 years younger than me. I am reliably informed that I was a whizz at terry-towelling nappies, which terrifies me when I think of the 6-year-olds I know. As an adult, I have invested rather a lot of time in trying to get people to hand babies to my husband (who has a natural affinity for kids) rather than to me. I’ve learnt a bit on friends’ kids over the years and progressed from being completely frozen in horror if I found myself with a kid on my lap. Starting to spend more time with my husband’s godchildren has made me a lot more natural with toddlers: and they are often great fun.
But I’m still rather starting from scratch with the nephew, which means we are always coming up against milestones. Today: first time changing a nappy in a public toilet. I felt like I needed three hands. Also today: realised that I am now totally unselfconscious about maintaining a high-pitched monologue in public to someone who clearly isn’t going to talk back. Yesterday: discovered that singing “Twist and Shout” has quite a calming effect. And realised that I only know 8 lines of “Twist and Shout” (is that all there are?)
I am immensely grateful to my sister for giving me the space to learn and do things a bit inexpertly at first. I know that I will remember with fondness every little bit of alone time that the little one and I spend together – including the bits where he’s asleep!