Friday, 15 April 2011

Something I saw in the park the other day

I was trying to think up a smarter title for this post, but I am going to use my standard excuse de jour for that; that my brain is in hibernation right now. I don't know what I'm functioning on instead in its absence; some kind of standby generator for when the mains power blows I guess. Or a temp brain from an agency, who is more interested in checking facebook and painting its nails than actually doing the work of keeping up the impression I am a sentient, intelligent human being...

Right, moving swiftly on from the dodgy mixed metaphors to what I was actually sitting down to write about today...

It was just this. I was in the park, feeding baby some satsuma. Some older toddling children were running around on the slides and swings. Sun in the sky, but a bit of a chill. Mothers or carers hovered and chattered.

A tall, lean woman, sporting ankle-cropped trousers and battered desert boots, entered the gardens, buggy in tow. She unstrapped a baby similar size to mine, talked a little German to it, took it several metres away and plonked it down on the grass. Then she returned to the buggy, sat in it and tilted her face to the sun, looked quite marvellously relaxed.

German baby happily tested out her legs, moving from sitting to a legs-straight all-fours position, pulled at the grass, toddled over to the play area, experimented with standing, popping up like a mini weightlifter from squatting to upright, then back down again.

German granny (for so she was; she said her granddaughter was 10 months when we exchanged the customary 'how old is yours' baby small talk) dived in occasionally, when baby was about to crawl under a swinging seesaw, and dispensed affectionate cuddles, but mostly just left her to it and chilled out.

Later we were in the library over the road and granny got on with her stuff on the PC for half an hour or so, whilst baby sat first on the mat and then burbling away in her pram facing the baby area - no line of sight between the two.

Nothing particularly extraordinary in all that, you think... and I guess you'd be right. But it really struck me, because in the circles that I move, I've rarely if ever seen such laissez-faire, laid back parenting.

Oh, I've heard earnest discussions of the importance of letting babies play by themselves (usually supported with reference to some book or guru or website or other), and I've seen childminders chatting whilst their charges tear around the stay and play, but somehow this seemed entirely different.

I think it was the complete absence of tension or hurry. In contrast to the hovering, monitoring, multi-tasking, frowning, chiding, chatting, encouraging mothers/carers that I normally see.

And it made me think maybe I could be more like that. And then that made me think that how I am now is so heavily determined by what I see around me, whether consciously or subconsciously, though I might like to think I just do what I think is best regardless of what others think or do. That was all.

* I guess it could be that I move in first-born only circles and there's a bit of 'pfb syndrome' going on. How ironic that probably the only child with which you will get the luxury of being a bit more relaxed is the one that you will probably be most neurotic about! ** BTW I in no way mean this to be an opinionated/ideological piece, oh children today are so mollycoddled that's the reason civilisation is taking a nosedive, that kind of thing. Purely observational.


  1. I found this really interesting. I love the idea of this lady and how she looks after her granddaughter. Do you think some of her laid backness might have come from the fact that she was the granny not the mummy?

  2. I think you are probably right re the first born circle to some extent. I took baby number two to toddler no. one's daycare this week to help him make an easter hat. Baby no two was plonked on the ground, handed a couple of toys and left to her own devices. Same again at the park - she happily munched on twigs and grass until I thought she'd had enough. I am certainly much more relaxed with no two.
    it is nice to hear a grandparent being like that, the ones on my husband side are way more neurotic than I am.

  3. I am always going between guilty for not paying enough attention to the children to feeling very virtuous for not hovering. It definitely gets easier with a third child.

  4. I've always tried to be a free range parent but it is hard - I'm constantly criticised for not interferring and letting them fall over and work out their limits themselves

    Don't even get me onto the topic of child proofing!