“Siblings are who you share your childhood with,” my husband commented, as we talked about possibly having another kid.
“I never thought about it that way,” I responded. Tilting my head, you could practically see the classic cartoon lightbulb above it. As an only child, that aspect of having a sibling honestly never occurred to me. But now, years later, I see its truth reflected in the relationship between my two young children. Even at one and four-years-old, they have a bond different than I’ve ever experienced.
Reading a party invitation, I look up at my husband and ask, “Whose turn is it this time?” We both struggle to remember who went out last. In the end, we just pick one of us, figuring that even if it’s wrong, it’ll work out in the end. And it always does. Paying a babysitter would be easier, but we’ve never gotten around to hiring one.
While we’re too busy to have extensively vetted a babysitter and too cheap to pay one anyway, we’ve remained committed to seeing our friends on a regular basis. Here’s some of the ways we’ve managed to maintain those relationships, our wallets and our sanity:
“Look, there’s a rabbit!” I exclaim to my four-year-old son, trying to keep my voice down.
“Where?” he asks, as I point to the animal.
“Do you see it? Let’s be quiet so we don’t scare it away.”
“Yeah,” he replies, as he watches the bunny twitch its tail. It looks at us, then goes back to munching on the clover. It doesn’t think we’re a threat.
While the rabbits in our neighborhood do tend to be bold, my son’s calm demeanor definitely allowed us to watch it longer than if he had a louder reaction.
While we may think of a “wild child” as boisterous, exploring nature isn’t limited to adventurous extroverts. In fact, more quiet or introverted children can get just as much, if not more, out of being outside. While he sprints and yell-sings inside, my son is naturally a bit cautious and calm outside.
Here’s what I’ve learned from exploring with him:
The fairy-like White Queen gazed at me intently. Lying on a table, her look invited me into Wonderland, a place of childhood on the edge of adulthood. Then she shoved herself backwards, flew across the table, and jumped to her feet, towering over us.
This was all quite literal.
Last weekend, Chris and I took our first trip by ourselves since Sprout was born. The trip was nominally celebrating our eleventh wedding anniversary. So we were in New York City, watching a play put on in a former mental institution. The play – based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, and the real-life relationship between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell – sparked insight for me about childhood, parenting, and how both are more complex than they seem.
Sinking into our couch, I look at the clock. 11:15. 11:15 PM. I had literally spent our entire night getting our kids to bed. Metaphorically, we had tripped and fallen hard on our faces. While this was an exceptionally bad night, our whole bedtime routine with Sprout is always a delicate dance.
I stood in Target, looking for something on the shelves that they never carried and never will. In theory, I was there for a bathing suit. My first post-baby bathing suit since my second son arrived in the world. As I hadn’t lost the baby weight yet, I needed one so that I’d be ready for a family trip to Cape Cod. But like so many bathing suit searches, it was about much more than a piece of fabric.
“Where do you want to eat?” Anyone who has ever gone to a restaurant with their family has faced this question, probably followed by a drawn-out conversation about likes, dislikes, convenience, and whatever dish you got there last time. If you have young children, you may automatically exclude whole categories from consideration. You may never even consider bringing kids to ethnic restaurants and others without children’s menus.
But if you’ve always longed to check out that new Indian place but don’t want to spend money on a babysitter, there may be hope. It’s actually easier to bring kids to restaurants that don’t specifically cater to families than you think.
While it may seem intimidating, I’ve successfully brought my toddler to restaurants that specialize in a variety of cuisines, including fancy Italian, Ethiopian, Peruvian, and Japanese food.
Here are a few tips that can help:
The band-aid was the first sign of trouble.
My parents, my in-laws, Chris, and I were all rushing around, trying to set up Sprout’s fourth birthday party. A few days earlier, Sprout had badly cut his ring finger and now the band-aid was peeling off. Like all children, Sprout takes his band-aids Very Seriously. While we have a plentiful supply of Thomas the Train band-aids at home, my current stash was limited to Star Wars. “Look, I have Star Wars band-aids!” I exclaimed, trying to work up an adequate level of enthusiasm. “I don’t want Star Wars band-aids! I want Thomas!” he cried. After much whining, including an exclamation of “I don’t want to watch Star Wars!,” my mom resolved the situation. She offered to “make” a dinosaur band-aid from a plain bandage and dinosaur stamp.
This dramatic arc was solid foreshadowing for the rest of his birthday party.
“Where are you going?” I yelled at Sprout across the playground as he zipped around on his balance bike. “I told you not go back there!” My words echoed off of the wall of the building that my son just disappeared behind. My face dropped into a frown as I waited for him to emerge from the other side. When he came around, I walked up to him and said, “You are not using your bike for the rest of the day.” Of course, he broke down wailing.
Another day, Sprout wheeled his bike down the sidewalk near our house, feet flying. But this time, he dragged his sneakers along the pavement when I yelled, “Stop!” Coming to a halt, he waited for Little Bird and I to catch up, despite his fidgeting hands showing his desire to go, go, go! As soon as we reached him, he was off again, speeding ahead but listening for my call.
As I decided whether or not to buy a pedal bike for his fourth birthday, I thought about what side I should weigh more heavily. Was he responsible enough for this present or not?
No one wants failure. Most of the time, it kind of sucks. But it is a fact of life. And one that kids need to deal with on a regular basis. They can – and will – learn about it on their own. But they can also learn about it from us as their parents.
I recently wrote about how I’m using my own failures to teach my kids how to deal with theirs at my first post for Her View from Home, Teaching My Kids Grit by Modeling How to Fail Well.
Here’s the first paragraph:
Riding to my first community bike ride of the season, I rejoiced. The blue skies and perfect temperature surely meant plenty of families would show up. But as I waited at the community center with my young son, my hopes faded. A biker riding up the parking lot piqued my attention before I realized it was one of the other volunteers. Not a single family showed up to my family bike ride. Instead, my kid, my two fellow volunteers and I pedaled over to the ice cream shop anyway.
Read the rest at Her View from Home!