Lately, I’ve been enjoying the freedom that an independent toddler can provide. We first noticed it about 2 months ago. It was a cloudy Sunday morning, and we had what felt like hundreds of chores to complete. Typically we spend weekend mornings bringing our son out swimming, to the beach, to a park, at a friends house, or somewhere fun. Then it’s home for lunch, and then nap time. But this Sunday morning was different. We had things we needed to get done at home before heading over to friends for Sunday night dinner, and there was no way we could get them all done during nap time.
After breakfast that day, an amazing thing happened, for four hours my toddler just played happily by himself. He explored the backyard on his own, he played with various toys, he chased the dog and the cat, he squealed at caterpillars and found a multitude of things to amuse himself. I suspect having outside access helped a lot, but he was primarily on his own. When nap time rolled around he was exhausted and slept like a log. Even better our household chores were done.
This day got me thinking, I liked to think that we’re not the type of parents who are constantly scheduling every minute of our child’s day, but when I look back on so many weekends that’s exactly what was happening. It might not have always been scheduled activities, but our days were definitely scheduled. On weekdays there’s daycare and on weekends it’s some activity before heading home for lunch and nap time, a trip to the park, dinner, bath time and then bedtime. Our days were very structured and either my husband or I was always focused on some sort of play activity with our son. Looking deeper into why I was doing this, I realized it came down to two things. 1) As a first time mom of a singleton, I’m still figuring it out as I go, at some point my baby grew into an independent toddler and it took me a bit to catch up to him. 2) I was feeling some form of societal pressure that said that moms always be engaging and teaching their children, and that if I didn’t do X, Y, or Z my son would be behind.
Since this realization, I’ve been trying to make sure that we always have some unscheduled time. Time for my toddler to explore the world on his own, and time for us parents to just be. We might still catch up on some chores, but we also try to use it to work on our own hobbies. The fun part is watching our little guy mimic us entertain our selves. Whether it’s cooking, reading, painting or our fixing a bike, he’s always watching and learning. I love this time to just be a family, doing our own things around the house, or in the garden. I love this free time to just be.