Our niece, Nelly, came to visit with her parents, godparents, and grandmother this past weekend. Let me tell you something about babies: babies are attention-sucking little monsters. Sure, they visit your new place and suddenly the whole family does as well, but once a baby gets into your house, you become invisible. If you have people over and you want everyone to say that your home is nice and how great you are for laying out the furniture so artfully, they wont if there is a baby around. Babies are thunder stealers. Everyone only ever looks at the baby and talks about the baby. You, the proud homeowner with recently discovered innate decorating talent, are either ignored or expected to join in. It’s all like “Ooo the baby is asleep, lets watch” or “Ooo the baby is awake, lets watch” and “Ooo the baby has poo in its pants, Eve get your camera”. Excuse me? But hasn’t anyone noticed how the flow in this room is fantastic? No, no one has.
I may never forgive my niece for this injury, only time will tell. Nevertheless I was all gung-ho about her visit and did hours of research
at the library on google looking for ways to make her stay more enjoyable. I didn’t find a lot. Sure, Martha and others have list of things to do for guests in general:
- have guest slippers – these got used as weapons
- have a night-light in the bathroom – duh
- nothing says “you are welcome” than a vase of fresh flowers in the room - umm okay
- place a carafe of water in the room – everyone protested at first but the bottles were empty in the morning!
- lay out magazines and interesting books – because being in my house is like waiting at the dentist’s office
Good or bad these suggestions had nothing to do with an infant visitor. So here is my list of how to be a good host to a baby:
- Make room – babies travel with more bags than a hockey mom. If you have a choice between bedrooms, give the baby the biggest one. Clear out clutter, make ample floor space for the special portable furniture that only the baby gets to use, and closet space for everything else.
- Prepare for poo – lots of it. The baby will poo in your house, if its nice it will keep it in its pants. The parents will need a spot to put the poo, so place a garbage can into the baby room. In the garbage can stuff dozens of old plastic grocery bags so the parents can wrap up each dirty diaper, and tell the parents where that diaper should inevitably go -like the garage.
- Get out your camera – and use it. Far more than a vase of flowers, nothing says “we really like your baby” than constantly wanting to ‘capture’ every little thing it does. Take pictures of the baby alone, take pictures of the parents with the baby, other guests with the baby, pets with the baby, ask the parents to take pictures of you with the baby! Parents think their baby is pretty awesome and are very gratified when you act like you do too. Then you can e-mail them the pictures a few days later and you are automatically the best host ever!
- Help in indirect ways – not with the baby. Just like you are showing off how great at hosting you are, the parents are showing off at how great at parenting they are. So let them take care of the baby (this also means you wont have to clean up poo), don’t do more than hold it when it’s happy. But traveling with a baby is hard, and the parents need help with other stuff. If they brought their dog, take it for a walk while they’re busy with the baby. Same thing if they brought a kid. Make their bed when they shower, help unload/reload all the baby’s luggage, look up directions and routs for them, et cetera.
- Cool it - the house. During most of the summer we get by with drawing the shades and opening the windows. The cross-breeze keeps it cool enough and we rarely use the A/C. But babies are temperature sensitive, and it is way easier to bundle up a baby then it is to deal with a warm one. So turn on the central air and get the house a degree below what you would call summer temperature. If you don’t have air conditioning, place a quiet fan in the guest room and one in the most used common area.
So there you have it! A few simple things you can do to make your infant house guest and her entourage happy. Just remember: when a baby is over you will fade into the background and become a useful little house elf who magically produces food, clean towels, and photographs. I’d tell you to do this with grace and affability but then I would have to lead by example.