Daycare was closed the week of April break so my son’s daycare provider could enjoy time with her own family. It was a win for her and a win for me; I would be able to spend at least three days at home with my son. Three weekdays together meant overwhelming possibilities for things we could do and the memories we could make.
I was prepared to give myself three cheers and a mom award for these potential memories made in this three-day span of time.
I hit Google, checking the hours, costs, and schedules of a variety of places for kid-friendly activities in the Burlington area where I’ve been wanting to take my son. I was so excited by the prospects of what I might be able to indulge in with him and the memories we might make on each adventure. Working full time often means I don’t get the opportunity to take him to a local story hour at a library, or to a place that runs toddler time activities, because these things tend to occur when I am working M-F, 9-5. I quickly came up with a list of ideas, a schedule, and a budget.
I know what every experienced mom is probably thinking: I also had an unrealistic set of expectations for those three days.
That would be correct. A mama can dream, can’t she?
The first morning, we relaxed for a couple of hours, doing whatever. Around 8:30, I asked him if he wanted to go swimming – at the fitness center with the indoor pool, not far away. He loves everything to do with water. I even said it in my excited mommy voice. (You know what I’m talking about. You each have one.) He just looked at me with a tilted head and said, “No. Stay in house.” I was shocked. My son, who is part fish, didn’t want to go swimming? I asked him again a few minutes later. “No. Stay in house.” I left it alone and we continued to cycle through toys and coloring books and blocks we’ve played with a thousand times. I was offering something new. He was choosing the same ole, same ole.
By 9:30, I had asked half a dozen times and was met with the same answer every time. I started to let go of my plan for making memories at the pool. He pressed his face to the screen door, looking out onto the porch and into the parking lot of an office building behind our place. It was raining. The sky was grey. I asked him if he wanted to put on his rubber boots and go out onto the porch. He nodded. So, we put on our boots and stepped outside. He peered through the railing and started talking about the cars in the parking lot. I watched him. And I started to think how I want him to look back on his childhood and remember his mom as someone who made everyday experiences just as fun as outings.
Then it clicked.
The memories made with my son over the next three days were not going to be ones that required me to purchase anything, bribe him to do something, or be planned out. Our experiences were going to be based on what he felt like doing in the moment and my own creativity. Maybe also the weather.
So, out there on the porch, I re-framed this idea I had made of the Kodak moments we would share in this special quality time not often awarded to us.
We played follow the leader. I jumped. He jumped. I reached for the sky. He reached for the sky. Eventually, we fell into a fast reenactment of the song, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” which sent him into a fit of glorious and contagious giggles. I brought out bubbles. We blew bubbles over the railing and watched them float away. And when the rain came down a little harder, I asked him if he wanted to go outside and splash in the puddles. Which was met with an affirmative and passionate, “Yes!”
A few minutes later, we were dressed and ready, rubber boots, baseball caps, and clothes ready to get drenched. We took off outside. For the next hour and a half, we ran, jumped, waded, and splashed in every puddle we could find all around the neighborhood. We had people smile and wave at us from their cars as they drove past. One trucker honked and flashed his lights for my son as he stood on the sidewalk, shin-deep in a puddle and waved. When he grew tired of walking, we pulled out the wagon and walked the sidewalks. He watched the water splash up over the tires and blew bubbles from his bubble gun. We stopped on occasion to watch an earthworm wriggle across the pavement toward the grass. We sang songs and we recited the alphabet. By the time we were done, there wasn’t a single part of him that was dry.
We came in and hung our clothes up. I shoved newspaper into his boots to help soak up remaining water trapped inside the soles. We spent the rest of the morning building things with blocks, creating sticker scenes, and playing the, “Look, Mommy,” game which is a recent thing. He says, “Look Mommy” and then strikes a pose which I think looks like a superhero but he claims is a monster. I don’t even know how he knows the concept ‘monster’ from this action-oriented perspective. One of these times I swear I’ll capture one of these poses in a photo.
As I tucked him into bed and kissed him on his head, I hoped he would fall asleep thinking of the memories we made that morning. I hoped that he would still remember this day eighteen years from now. The day we played in the puddles.
At 2.5, fun isn’t really about going places. It’s not about the money spent. It’s only about time together. I want to grant him adventures and opportunities. I want to feel like a good mom by exposing him to different things and allowing him different experiences.
But good experiences don’t always come from going somewhere else. And being a good mom isn’t about where I can afford to take him.
I know that. But I got caught up in my own image of what childhood should look like. He was adamant that he didn’t want to go to the pool, that he wanted to stay in the house, and thus forced me to get outside of my own ideas and listen to what he was saying.
He doesn’t need the pool. He needs me. He needs his mom. And our memories don’t need to be bought, bribed, or planned.
Puddles are more than enough.
Describe a time you had a grand plan change and the alternative ended up being way better than you could have expected or hoped for.