Yesterday was a day of back-to-back appointments to get to and errands to run. Usually, I would have shot out of the house in the morning like a banshee in heat, but with my still fresh conscious change of lifestyle, I decided to make mommy-daughter day out of it.
First, instead of downing my morning cup of joe, we got up, showered, dressed, took our sweet time, and went out to a neighborhood deli for a cup of coffee and a late breakfast. I looked over at my daughter, who was now wide awake and began fidgeting as 3-year-olds do, wondering exactly how I’d get through all the appointments and errands with her.
When I first became a single mother and started my first business, I couldn’t afford nannies or babysitting too often. My parents were already elderly and were out of the country or at their summer home most of the year. The Kid, now 16, and I had to get most things done together.
With a 13-year difference, it’s been entirely different with the Toddler. First, my parents came to stay with us for the first three months, happy to help out with their seventh grandkid and first since 1999. Then we went through two nannies, several babysitters, and the Kid has been more than helpful in taking care of his sister when needed, although he does spoil her rotten and lets her get away with mass murder.
I sat there this morning with the Toddler and realized that, despite the lack of nannies and funds back then, life was so much easier when the Kid and I were doing all this same stuff 13 years ago.
Was it because I was older? Was it because the world had changed so much? Was it because she was a more difficult child than her brother? God no. None of the above.
The only thing that had changed was my mindset. And I suppose that does come with age and isn’t entirely a bad thing. But we should take pause every once in a while and recalibrate, balancing our old habits with the new.
So that, inadvertently, is what we ended up doing today. I remembered how wonderful a dull day of errands could turn when your kid is there to entertain you. And how beneficial that time and experience is for kids, watching their parents in the adult world.
I did have to figure out something for the Toddler to do, however. While I had a few of the essential items every mom should have in her purse for the sake of sanity, these appointments and errands today would see us spending some 15-20 minutes in each spot and lots of time in transit getting to each spot. The classic stuff wasn’t going to work.
After our quick breakfast, I decided to stop off at the first drugstore along the way and have her pick out a random, cheap summer toy. The kind of seasonal plastic stuff every store stocks. She picked a rubber ball, donned in colorful Disney characters. I figured that should hold her attention for a couple of hours and I immediately decided to use it to teach her a lesson her brother had learned around the same age.
I should probably add right about here that I’m not big on toys. Of course all children should have them, but I firmly believe that too many toys distract kids from developing creative skills and even bore them. I much prefer to hand my kids a stick, tell them it’s a sword, and send them into the back yard to slay dragons. I’ve been known to slay a dragon or two myself along with them.
But a ball is the type of toy I approve of, and immensely. Letting your child pick out a toy themselves and take them on a walkabout is also a great idea. Because they’re bound to lose it or break it. And that’s a good thing. Which is why the Toddler’s chosen ball was perfect for today’s life lesson.
You see, I wasn’t going to carry the ball for her. I wasn’t going to run after it when she dropped it. I wasn’t going to protect it from being run over by a car and I most certainly wasn’t going to buy her another one. She needed to learn not to drop the ball.
One of the ball-preserving solutions that we tried and that the toddler wasn’t too happy with.
For the next four and a half hours, she went from holding the ball with one hand and dropping it several times to holding it firmly with both hands and bringing it home in one piece.
She got lucky at least twice today. At one point, she dropped the ball on a downhill street and off it went. She knew it was as good as gone and started to cry. I told her to buck up, deal, and say bye-bye to the ball. “You didn’t take care of it well enough,” said I. “You should have held on better.” Then a nice lady came our way from the opposite direction, with the Toddler’s colorful ball in hand. Oh, the brilliant joy in the Toddler’s tear-filled eyes when she saw her beloved ball again! The lady handed her the ball back, the Toddler promptly thanked her (with no instruction from me whatsoever), and we were on our way again.
Then, an hour later, she dropped the ball again, for the umpteenth time. She usually just bent down to pick it up, nut this time she gave it the slightest unintentional kick as she approached to pick it up and off the ball went under a parked car. And that was that. Again, she knew it was time to say goodbye to her beloved ball. She looked at me. I shrugged. Sorry, kiddo. You knew the deal. I’m not going under the car to get it. “Go under and get it. Or don’t,” I told her. “It’s up to you.”
Suddenly, a young man came out of the building in front of which the car was parked. He saw the ball on his side, gave it a swift, hard kick, and out came the ball right toward the Toddler. She reached down and caught it with both hands, pulled the ball close to her chest with both arms, and yelled a big thank you at the young man who was already making his way down the street.
The object has been secured.
On our way back home, she wouldn’t let go of the ball for anything. You could harass her, question her, threaten her, waterboard her – all you were getting was her name, rank, and serial number. But the ball was staying in her arms.
We got home and she went straight to her room, deposited the ball in a safe cornern, and came back out to eat.
Thirteen years ago, her brother lost or damaged at least half a dozen balls before he learned the lesson. She seems to be quicker than her brother. Or just luckier.
Kid’s lesson learned – take care of the stuff you love, no matter their material worth, and don’t drop the ball.
Mom’s lesson learned – don’t take yourself, your responsibilities or your damn errands so seriously. Obligations and play time are not mutually exclusive.