A couple of years ago I was giving our son, who was about 9 months old at the time, a bottle of milk to settle him for a nap. I was sat in his room with the lights off and the curtains closed. It was early evening but around this time of year so it was dark early. All was calm and peaceful. Then I heard the floorboards on the landing half way up the stairs creak. We don’t have an old house. The only reason it creaks is because someone is moving around.
My husband was at work. We have two house keys; I have one and he has the other. There was no way it was him and even if it was he always calls out hello when he arrives home. So my brain jumped to the only possible scenario – someone had broken into our house and was now on the stairs and approaching our son’s bedroom.
I have never felt panic like I felt in that moment and then I heard the unmistakable sound of the stair gate being slowly opened. They say in moments of real terror, flight or fight instinct kicks in. I felt mostly paralysed as I clung to our son. After what felt like a lifetime the door slowly opened and my brother’s face popped round the corner.
I had messaged him about 30 minutes beforehand to say I’d left the backdoor open and he should just let himself in when he arrived. Of course I had completely forgotten he was coming and that I’d sent that message. I am not a violent person at all but when I saw his face pop round the door I was so relieved and so full of adrenaline that I slapped him on the face. I have no idea why and still to this day feel bad about it – sorry Little Bro. Some kind of post-stress fight reflex kicked in, triggered by the absolute relief it was him and not a psychopath or a burglar.
My brother, somewhat shocked by my greeting, knelt down and said hello to our son who was sitting on my lap. I encouraged him to “Say hello to Uncle Richard” at which point our 9 month old son smiled and then promptly slapped his uncle round the face.
Monkey see. Monkey do.
Not a great start to my brother’s visit and a stark reminder that we are such powerful role models in children’s lives. Parents, uncles, grandparents, strangers in the street – children watch and absorb everything. There are always stories of children picking up the “naughty words” and announcing them in the middle of nursery or preschool. They copy the bad that’s for sure but they also learn from our good.
Today I have been bouncing on castles and running around the park. I didn’t make excuses to sit down and watch, I just got stuck in with the good old business of play. I flew down zipwires, jumped on trampolines and climbed across logs. I want our children to see me having fun and playing and getting stuck in with the imaginative play and the rough and tumble and the climbing and jumping and spinning and flying. If toddler see, toddler do then I want them to see me having the best time playing because that’s what it should be about when you’re growing up. And I am definitely loving having more energy and stamina to play.