Like so many of us these days, I live a long, long way from most of my family. My mum and dad are about a seven-hour drive away, my sister and brother roughly the same. And Shaun has only his mum, and she lives in Budapest.
So that leaves the two of us to do all the kid-wrangling, all the entertaining, all the missing work when there's a fever or an ear infection. I mean, we knew all this before we had a kid, so it's not like it's a huge surprise that there's no-one to help handle the parenting burden. My secret fantasy is that a kindly and capable old lady will move in across the road and insist that she babysit every second weekend. Ha!
Anyhow, one thing about having Mum so far away is that when she comes to stay, as she did this weekend, she really, really makes the most of her time with E. Every time I see her with him I am utterly amazed at her energy levels, her ability to invent new games, her patience with him, her propensity to do the same jigsaws over and over again (where I would be plotting ways to sneak out of the room). She is incredible and, wow, does that little boy love her.
I do suspect that even if we lived around the corner from Mum she'd be exactly the same, super-generous with her time and attention. Time and attention - grandparents have so much more to give than parents. I mean, I give E plenty of attention, but often my mind is on my work, whether we're out of milk and what on earth I'm going to pack for E's lunch at daycare. Those annoying little essentials that so often get in the way of a good time.
Mum flew down to Sydney just to see E, which is lovely in itself. And from the minute she swept in the door she had him in her thrall. Which meant Shaun and I were free to mill about, do our chores and - gasp - relax a bit. On Saturday night we were able to go out for dinner without having to chase after a small blond child who's usually intent on tripping up waiters carrying steaming hot food.
We went to The Malaya, which serves up the most heavenly curries and my favourite entree in the world: otak otak (minced, herbed fish cooked in banana leaf parcels. Mmmm). One drink afterwards, home by 12 (yawning all the way) knowing that we could sleep in (huh? what's that again?) the next morning.
Oh, and then on Sunday Mum watched E while Shaun and I rode to Strathfield on the bike path - that's nearly two hours there and back. Just what I needed.
Is she the best, or what?!