My children’s favourite playgrounds aren’t made of metal and hard plastic. They aren’t painted with garish primary colours. They don’t conform to the latest safety regulations. They aren’t surrounded by rings of houses, fences or busy city streets. They don’t have swings or slides or monkey bars. There are no crowds.
My children’s favourite playgrounds have hundred-year-old trees to climb and crawl inside. They are painted with the colours of nature: green and brown, gray and blue, a million different colours. Thousands and thousands of rocks are waiting to be picked up and flung into rivers, lakes and the ocean. Herons, woodpeckers, sea lions, sea otters, crabs, raccoons, squirrels, woodpeckers, ducks and fish pop up at the most surprising moments in the strangest of places.
There are places to hide, places to run free and places to curl up and rest.
The trees stand guard, in the background. Always there and always green, their shadows unmoving as the children dance among them.
My baby girl is approaching two. Her favourite stuffie is her “Dollo.” Dollo was a baby gift from a dear family friend. My daughter attached to Dollo quickly.
On Facebook the other day a friend of mine was lamenting the fact that her three-year-old son was still very attached to a special blanket. She was pleased that her son could sleep in his own bed and use the potty. I think she saw the removal of the blanket as the next box that needed checking off in her son’s life.
I slept with my special blanket until I was sixteen. I still know exactly where it is: in a bag, in a box in my parents’ basement. I can still smell it and feel its worn softness against my cheek. It was my constant companion and comforter against scary monsters and sleepless dark nights.
The fact that my daughter has her own special stuffie doesn’t surprise me. If you look closely at the right side of the picture you can see Dollo’s tag sticking out. My daughter strokes that tag over and over as she falls asleep. As I rock her I can tell she is nearing sleep when her tiny fingers slow, pause then finally stop, in their daily ritual.
There is a mountain behind our house. My children aren’t quite big enough to climb it with us, but in the afternoon the gate opens up so cars can drive almost to the top. Once we park, there are two different trails that head straight up; one to a cement look-out point, the other to some high rocks. A few weeks ago my son and I headed out on a mommy-son day and I took him up the mountain for the first time. Once at the top, he came alive, yelling “This is fantastic! This is amazing!” as we looked way down at the awesome panorama of mountain, ocean, forest and green…always green.
It was a warm, rainy day. The children were restless in the house. They’d played with toys, watched a show on TV, played with Playdoh and eaten countless snacks. They started chasing each other around and around the circle on our main floor and I knew it was time to get outside. After little A’s nap we bundled up in heavy-duty rain coats and headed out.
My daughter loves worms, and calls them “nerms,” which is adorable. When she finds one, she picks it up in her bare hands, runs to me, holds it up and proudly announces “Nerm! Mommy! Nerm!”
Her big brother had the idea to put them in the back of a plastic truck, and a new game was born. Soon, they each had a truck and were racing around our cul-de-sac seeing who could find the biggest worm, the smallest worm, the wiggliest worm, and on and on.
I love giving children the space and time to come up with their own games. It’s tempting to sign them up for more classes to fill our (sometimes long and arduous) days but moments like this make me grateful that I am at home with them for these very short years.
I’m not giving anything up by staying home. I’m gaining so, so much.
My poor, poor daughter gets so many pitying looks from first-time mommas.
The way I parent her is a million times different from the way I parented my son when he was her age.
I haul her around in a hand-me-down, slightly stained blue umbrella stroller. Her brother glided around in a deluxe designer stroller. I, like many first-time moms, gave in and bought the fancy-schmancy ride for my son. Yes, it’s great, but nope, it’s not so great while also managing a preschooler who never stops moving. With two kids in the family, it is rare to have one free hand, let alone two. I need a stroller I can pick up with my pinkie and throw in the trunk, completely assembled.
I had my daughter in the fancy stroller the other day (while scrounging for cheap toys and funky sweaters at Value Village) and a young mom sidled up to me and asked casually, “So, how do you like the Peg?” It took me a few minutes to realize she was talking about the stroller. I guess my children are getting older because I no longer recognize new-mommy-stroller-lingo. 😉
My daughter is often completely neglected at the park. A few months ago I took the kiddies to the playground near our house. As we pulled up, I let them loose from the constraints of stroller (my daughter) and bike helmet (my son). I always feel like yelling, “Release the hounds!” as they run wildly to whatever catches their fancy at our new child-proof neighbourhood park.
Anyways, on this particular afternoon there was only one other child there, a little boy close in age to my daughter (about 18 months at the time). He was accompanied by both of his parents and was obviously their first and only child. The little guy couldn’t take a step without some sort of comment of encouragement from both parents. At every trip or stumble they both jumped to attention. It was sort of cute, for the first few minutes.*
I was busy helping my son strap into a safety swing for 5-10 year olds (?) way across the park and had half an eye on my daughter. I saw her move towards a ladder that led to a medium-sized slide. The look on the other parents’ faces as my daughter climbed up and went down that slide alone was total shock.** She survived. Now, a few months older, she proudly announces, “I did it!” when she lands at the bottom without falling.
My daughter is continually harassed by her five-year-old brother. The other day it was raining and he was bored. I gave him an old diaper box to do something with. He made a “toddler trap,” complete with bait (a soother and a cookie) and chased his poor sister around, trying to drop it on her head.
Interestingly enough, I’m noticing many, many benefits to her being (slightly) neglected. My daughter is fiercely independent. She can say “no!” in a loud, confident voice over and over; a trait that I hope will come in handy when she is a teenager.
She can entertain herself for ages “reading” stacks and stacks of books and magazines.
She finds and gets what she needs by hauling around a kitchen chair or old plastic stool.
But most important of all, she has a built-in hero, confidant and ally in her older brother. A bit of “neglect,” a lot of independence and a best buddy for life.
*I was totally this mom when I only had one child.
**Just so you know I’m not a total slacker…I was running at warp-speed-that-feels-like-slow-motion and got there just as she landed on the soft mulch on the ground. By the way, why on earth do they use mulch at children’s parks? It’s like inviting children to play in a lumberyard and then being surprised when they get slivers.
What is different about the way you parent your second (or third or fourth) child?
While I was sorting through pictures of my children for Funny Places Toddlers Put Stuff I realized I had a lot of other funny toddler pictures. Today’s version involves places my toddlers have put themselves. 🙂
On a ball
With a doll
In the sand
Coming in to land
Climbing up higher
Checking out a fire
Going down a slide
Playing in the tub
Looking for grub
Helping do a chore
Hiding in a store
Feeling all right
Cuddled up tight
*I’ve posted a few of these pictures on previous posts but couldn’t resist including them.
Where do your toddlers like to put themselves?
One of my toddler daughter’s favorite pastimes is moving things from one place to another. Take her to a library or bookstore and she meticulously transfers a pile of books to a shelf across the room. Take her to Starbucks and she stacks the yogurt neatly beside the juice boxes. Take her to a hardware store and she drops the screws and nails into new places. At a toy store, every stuffie moves from shelf A to shelf B. Around the house, I’m always laughing as I find interesting little surprises that my daughter has set up for me to discover.
She gives me very creative ideas for supper:
She gets my slippers ready for me when I’m in the shower:
She makes sure her brother can always find his underwear:
She ensures that my hairspray is warmed up in the morning:
She knows how to make me smile when I’m putting the dishes away at night:
If I need an orange bucket, she finds one for me:
And my favorite…even salad dressing needs a little love sometimes:
Have you found anything around your house that your toddler has re-arranged? 🙂