Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hiding from the Eye of Doom

In any number of science fiction or action films, there will be a fraught sequence in which the hero is confronted by the preternaturally alert, ever-swivelling gaze of an enemy sentry or surveillance camera. He must duck, hide and think up distractions, since alarm klaxons and certain doom will follow if the "enemy eye" catches the merest glimpse of him.

It sometimes seems to us that we are living out this drama on a daily basis. Sonny may have wriggled and crawled his way into his ninth month of babydom, but he's certainly not showing any signs of becoming more able to function on his own. On the contrary: He now seems to insist on the conspicuous attention of at least one adult at all times. If left to sift through his generous sprinkling of toys, he'll almost certainly ignore them all in favour of loud wailing. The chance of this happening increases to 100 per cent should he spot either his mother or his father in the immediate vicinity, doing anything other than paying court upon him.

What this situation has brought about is a chilling cat-and-mouse game. As we wheel him about on Mac the stroller, for instance, we make sure we keep out of Sonny's line of vision, even if he were to suddenly look about with his feral acuteness. If at home in our bedroom, with Sonny peeking about in his cot at the foot of our bed, we scrunch up our bodies so that he won't spot us when his gaze burns its way in our direction. When we are trying to gobble down some food, we try to position the little fella in his rocker so that a convenient settee blocks us from view.

The reader may feel there is something rather odd about parents trying to conceal themselves from their offspring (chances are said reader isn't a parent himself, but that's quite all right, quite all right, you'll get your... that is, you're entitled to your opinion). We should clarify that we are normally quite willing to expose ourselves to his attentions, and have been known to spend many minutes drawing his chuckles and keeping him more or less clean. But if you think about it, there's a broader case to be made for absenting ourselves on occasion.

For instance, we wouldn't want Sonny to become totally bored with us, as might happen if we were to be perpetually hovering at the edge of vision. At the same time, we want to ensure that he is able to interact cheerfully with as many adults and children as possible, which might be tricky if we were to monopolise his time. It may even be helpful to the cultivation of good child discipline to have him undergo short bouts of stress and deprivation, so that he is better disposed to respond to our orders and instructions over time.

Plus, perhaps he actually takes Spot-your-Parent to be a splendid game that is a highlight of his days. Might as well make a virtue out of necessity, wouldn't you say?