I often find that, when I meet new parents at the playground, introductions follow a similar pattern: What’s her name? How old is she? Which classes does she take? Even with close friends, conversations about our children inevitably lead to discussions about our little darlings’ enrichment activities. For a long time, I had fantastic answers: baby yoga starting at 7 weeks, Music Together and swim class at six months, and ballet and gymnastics as soon as she met the cut-off age. If ever we found an unexpected opening in our calendar, I immediately deferred to my master list of drop-in activities. I was agro-mom and I was killing it.
I knew that the addition of a second child would slow us down, but it took a traumatic trip to the Bay Area Discovery Museum (I have the worst luck with that place) to really get it. My daughter fell down while I was nursing her three week-old brother, and just beyond my reach, she lay sobbing until a kind stranger scooped her up for me. It was a parenting low-point: I had thought I was doing the right thing by taking my toddler somewhere stimulating, but I’d done so at the expense of caring for both of my children adequately. My expectations HAD to change.
Initially I worried that my daughter would be bored. (And at first when I was nursing 8 to 10 times a day, she surely was.) But she has responded to our newer, simpler routine in ways I couldn’t have imagined. It turns out that a fully stocked dress-up drawer and basketful of our own musical instruments are far more entertaining than formal classes. My daughter gets to be as silly as she likes and my son can happily gnaw on a maraca I know doesn’t have the germs of hundreds of other children on it. When I picked my daughter up from preschool last week, the first thing she asked for was to “dance at home” that afternoon.
Visits to our favorite neighborhood cafe used to be stop-offs on our way to the Academy of Sciences or on a miles-long walk across the city. Now with our decidedly less-ambitous plans, the cafe is the destination. While the baby naps in his stroller, my daughter and I can eat breakfast together and pore over her favorite glossary of wild animals. Without the clock ticking to our next event, I had time to answer every question about the differences between cheetahs, jaguars and leopards with care. The day after discussing where jaguars live, my two-and-a-half-year-old asked me where South America was.
My answer to the “What classes does she take?” question still sucks right now, but my daughter seems pretty pleased with the quality time she’s been getting with me. (And my son, freed of being strapped into his carseat all day, has logged so much tummy time that he’s crawling at six months.) I’ve definitely stopped worrying whether my daughter is bored or “falling behind” her peers, because, well, she’s happy and she’s TWO. There is a lifetime of team practices, music lessons and ballet classes ahead of her, but what won’t last forever is my daughter thinking that her mother dancing in swim goggles and a superhero cape is awesome. I’ll be penciling in that activity every afternoon until then…