There are moments in each and every day when I almost stop right in my tracks because I am reminded I am not living in the moment, that I am not soaking up each fleeting moment as a parent in its full glory. It is difficult, I know, to relish the insanity of the day instead of being overwhelmed or, at times, frustrated, by it, but we should. We really, truly should because this whole thing called childhood goes by so quickly – really, in the blink of an eye. Instead of finding ourselves frustrated by the moments that aren’t going our way, or are taking too long, I hope we can remember that it is NOT about the destination, but it is most certainly about the journey. The journeys take longer, but also hold in them, the most reward. These journeys in childhood, I believe, are almost always more rewarding than the destination itself.
In my humble opinion, here are some journeys worth relishing:
Who knew that a child could sit in a bath and play with five toys – the same five toys every night – until they’ve pruned and then re-plumped again! There are nights when I simply don’t feel like giving my daughter a bath, because I’m tired or we’re a little off our schedule or – I just don’t want to! But then I remember how much she flippin’ loves bath time. She has these two little buckets, one yellow and one orange, with three holes in the bottom. She’ll fill them both up, then let them drain half out and then dump the rest of the water out over the side of the bathtub (she’s in one of those tubs that sits INSIDE our bath tub – so, you know, not as messy). She giggles and talks up a storm. I know it won’t always be this fun to get her to take a bath, so in these moments, I’m going to enjoy being half-soaked watching her dump water all over the place.
Play looks so very different for kids of all ages, but the main idea in waiting it out here is to just let them play. Don’t stop them from playing because they have to change out of their pajamas or you have to get the laundry started or, more likely, you are sort of bored. As an adult, learning to re-play like a child has been tough for me. I’m used to having a defined purpose in every thing I do. My daughter doesn’t have that. She explores. Sometimes she explores multiple things at once. Sometimes that exploring simply looks like looking at something – for what seems like hours on end. That’s not always so exciting for me. I don’t want to rush her though, or stop her from this exploring. When she starts coloring, or painting, or crafting or tide-pooling, things that will be infinitely more enjoyable for me, I want to keep these same expectations; I do not want to rush her through her play. It won’t be long, I’m sure, until she’d rather be at the mall with friends than playing with the stuffed animal circus on our living room floor. I’ll take every minute of this time I can get.
This one I think might be as much for me as it is for my daughter. Sometimes naps don’t happen, for a variety of reasons. I usually end up frustrated if that occurs, and she usually ends up beyond tired and melting down – so, we do like naps and rarely want to rush them. However, there are times when we have a playdate or an activity or an errand to run and that nap – that pesky little nap – is sort of getting in the way. Too bad. That’s what I’ve had to start saying. “Too bad we can’t make it, it’s nap time” or “Too bad I couldn’t get that done today, she was taking a nap”. Naps are great, for both baby and mama. About every third day I force myself, no matter how tired or not tired I am, to actually take a nap when my daughter does. What I notice is that I am recharged. This is what naps are doing for her – recharging her uber-exploring batteries so that she can wake up, eat, and uber-explore some more. Don’t rush naps and for the love of all that is important – don’t skip them either!
We are taking the Baby-Led Weaning, otherwise known as Baby-Led Solids, approach to introducing food to our little one. We skipped over purees and rice cereal as the typical starters (we do offer some pureed foods now and again) and we allow her to feed herself, either from the options we put in front of her, or what we have on our own plates. At seven months old, she is successfully eating chicken, ground beef, carrots, avocado, sweet peppers, bananas, nectarines, sweet potato, green beans, mango, and the list goes on. Mealtimes are messy, using this approach, and they take a lot longer than if I was spoon feeding her. But she is learning so much about food, and taste and texture and dexterity (with that cute little pincer grasp!) and making her own choices, and telling us when she is full or when she wants more. Before we had our daughter, I could eat a meal in under 10 minutes. Really, no joke. I think it comes from my high school days when I had about 30 minutes to eat, socialize and, let’s be honest, finish that Calculus homework! Forcing myself to slow down because that’s what she needs, has forced me to slow down as well – to enjoy thinking about what we are eating and watching her learn to learn about food. To enjoy spending time with family sharing a meal. Is it messy? Yes? Is it time consuming? A little more, yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely!
Time Away (the drop off and the pick up)
I mean this, from anywhere really, but I’m specifically thinking of daycare. As a full-time working mama, usually in the mornings I feel like I am in more of a hurry than I really am, than I really need to be. If I really stop and think about it, I can typically spend a few extra minutes playing with her at daycare – letting her show me the toys she plays with all day long. Taking her around the room and looking at the artwork and pictures on the walls. Helping her play with her little friends, which really consists of sitting up and looking at one another as they each play with their own toys. When I pick her up, I usually have the same time – I can sit down next to her while she is playing and play along. I can talk to her about what she did all day…I don’t have to simply drop her off and run out the door or whisk her up and out of the building to head home. She’s not a busy Type A Mama yet. She needs time to acclimate to her changes in her surroundings. Even though she knows daycare now, and she clearly knows us when we pick her up, it’s still a transition and it needs to be slowed down, just a bit, so as not to be jarring for that little brain of hers.
Charlotte isn’t sitting down for The Velveteen Rabbit or The Little Prince, anytime soon. And we certainly aren’t even close to the “chapter books” phase. But, she does like her books. We read two every night before bed: The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and The Big Hungry Bear and Goodnight Moon. She likes to close the books. She likes to flip the sturdy cardboard pages back and forth. She enjoys almost everything about reading books except the actual reading of the book. It doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is that she is hearing words, and looking at pictures, and is engaged in these moments of learning even before she goes to sleep every night. And, to be honest, I love the cuddles on my lap and her little smile every time I say “Boom! Boom! Boom! The Bear will tromp the forest…”
There are others, of course. Everyone will have their own journeys and experiences to relish. So, in the end my message is: just do that. Stop rushing through these moments. Enjoy the journey, the “destination” will come soon enough, I assure you.