Here’s a little baby
One, two, three
Stands in his cot
What does he see?
So begins PEEPO! by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, a board book that gave me more hope and perspective on parenting than all the parenting books I read combined. The lesson? Your baby doesn’t have to be entertained every minute. It will get to a point where you will be able to put your baby down and he will watch you as you go about your daily business!
The book is rich with detail. In the first scene, you can just glimpse the dress that the mother will wear throughout the day, and spot the rubber ducky that will appear in the evening bath scene. The clutter is encouraging (other people have messy houses too!) but also really fun to look at. It’s interesting historically, too, since it’s set in 1940s England (there’s a barrage balloon!).
PEEPO! was a gift from my brother Luke, who arrived at our house within a few days of Owen’s birth with four books that he had selected because he thought they might make Owen smarter. Each was wonderful in its way, but PEEPO! was the one that gave me some perspective. When Owen was very little, he would very infrequently lie calmly. He wanted always to be breastfeeding or asleep (or very entertained). But when I read PEEPO! I saw a little baby (older than Owen was then, of course), who could watch his mother iron shirts, his grandma hang laundry, his sisters fish in the pond…
And then once Owen could finally sit on his own, oh my goodness! it happened! He could play by himself! And then he learned to crawl and stand and it was all over. Well, not entirely – outside is still OK. Inside seems like a minefield, though. Today he fell and hit the side of his head on the coffee table (we padded the corners, but not the sides – gah).
But it’s coming, and I do have a little boy who stands in his cot and waits for me to come and get him in the morning, and when I peek around the side of the door (PEEPO!) I see the biggest grin every single day.