Entertaining children especially babies, is a very demanding and challenging job. It is one job that has to be done with extreme care, loads of creativity and disregard of self-consciousness, at least in my mind that is. Before our son entered our lives, my wife and I never imagined that entertaining a child would be as complex and intimidating as it turned out to be initially. Now, we have done our share of entertaining babies and children of our friends and relatives, in the past. During those stints, we pretty much figured out what we had to do, depending on the situation and we never felt that it was difficult or taxing. Afterall, we always had the benefit of return to sender, as I had mentioned in an earlier post (Babyland – Episode 2).
Reality of course, has a way of hitting in a manner that you least expect, right when you are already reeling from one revelation after another on what being a parent is about (see series of older posts from Episode 1 to 3 on Babyland). It became clear that we had to be cautious while entertaining our baby and be as creative as possible to keep him engaged. Through this all, we had to be ready to do embarrassing things at any time to entertain him successfully.
Now, many months ago a friend gave my son an electronic book of nursery rhymes. My son liked it very much as it played out various nursery rhymes as he turned the pages of that plastic book. The book had a light that lit up when pages are turned and colourful buttons that played certain tunes or called out the colour of the button. From the description of the toy, it seems to be a perfectly safe, entertaining and more importantly, educational toy. What could possibly go wrong when baby plays with that colourful musical book of nursery rhymes?
One night, I found out the dangers such an innocent looking toy could pose to a baby that plays intently with it. My son was sitting on the floor beside me when he picked up the book of nursery rhyme and laid it in front of him. He then knelt and flipped through the pages randomly one at a time, not really waiting for any rhyme to end. As this was norma, I continued with whatever it was that I was doing. All of a sudden, he cried out loud in pain. I quickly turned to see what happened and could not see anything out of the ordinary. He was still kneeling with his hands on the book. It took a few more seconds of him wailing out loudly before I realised that he had his finger pinned between the pages of the book, while he was kneeling on top of the book.
That is when I learned a lesson that even the most safe looking toy, is a potential hazard to the baby if not properly used. Of course, I can’t protect baby from everything that may come by him but I learned to analyse toys from all angles and assess how best to keep the toy safe, both, for and from the baby. As for the book of nursery rhymes, I taught him to always sit down and place the book in front of him. Whenever he forgets and starts kneeling, I gently remind him to sit down and keep his book in front of him. That works for now, at least with books.
Caution aside, baby’s meal time made us realise the importance of being creative. Before the presence of our baby, I never understood why among some couples, one tries to avoid being the one who had to feed the child. Some would volunteer to do diaper changing duties instead, just to avoid being the one to feed the child. Then I realised, when it comes to his meal time, keeping him entertained and occupied long enough to finish his food, was very important, which is where creativity played a vital role.
In the early days, feeding him was as simple as having him lie on our thighs while we fed him but it became challenging as he grew up. My wife and I wanted to avoid using gadgets to keep him occupied while he was being fed, as we didn’t want him getting hooked up to gadgets until it was really necessary. So, we had to be creative. I re-acquainted myself with nursery rhymes that I had mostly forgotten and learned up new ones.
More often than not though, I ended up inserting my own lyrics or created new ones. For instance, my version of “Old McDonald had a farm”, has all sorts of fowls in it besides the usual chicken and duck. Along the way, the same farm, added some wild animals in it, such as a monkey, an elephant, a wolf and a lion. The easily adjustable list of animals in the farm helped me keep him seated long enough, with manageable tantrums, in order to complete his meals. That aside, due to my extreme creativity with nursery rhymes, my wife decided that I will not be the one helping him with nursery rhymes when he goes to the nursery or kindergarten. I have chosen to not argue with that decision.
Besides all that, we also had to get used to being ready to do embarrassing things in the name of entertaining the baby. Things, that we would normally avoid, especially in public. For starters, talking gibberish or any non-understandable language, in public would be something one would avoid. However, in the presence of a baby, that is totally acceptable and nobody would look at you as if you have lost your marbles. Rather, most would give the look that says, “Ah, so cute”.
Then there is the singing or humming, especially of nursery rhymes in public. Without the presence of the baby, I am pretty certain, that someone would have kindly told me to just stick to being a bathroom singer. If it was a talent show, baby’s presence alone might earn me a reprieve to stay, at least for another episode. I am pretty certain that having baby around us, is a “Get out of jail card” to do anything embarrassing in the name of entertaining a baby. The same action I believe, would have rewarded me with at least a stinking egg, at any other time.
Fortunately, being cautious, extremely creative and prepared to do embarrassing things in public, generally results in a happy and content baby or at least as happy and content as a baby can be. As taxing and challenging a job it might be, to entertain baby that is, my wife and I are pretty sure that it brings about its own set of rewards. A happily well-fed, laughing and smiling baby, at any time of the day is definitely reward enough to keep being cautious, insanely creative and ever-ready to do embarrassing things anywhere.
P.S.: Featured image was sourced from Pexels