A couple of months ago, a friend asked me about how I fill my day with activities all day long with my toddler (2 year old in June this year). I hadn’t given it much thought until then, and I have been sort of mulling over it since. Strangely, I found that I don’t have any free time all day that needs to be ‘filled’. I am always on the go. I don’t pre-plan anything. I don’t have any set schedules. Except the sleep hours and meal times that I don’t compromise on. Me and my toddler just wing it every day, and honestly, have a blast doing it. Does this stay at home with an annoying toddler get tiring? Yes. Does it get emotionally and physically draining? Yes Yes Yes! Would I want it any other way? Heck no!
I’ve discovered what makes the ride smoother is having zero expectations as with anything else in life. For example, I had my munchkin enrolled in a couple of gymboree classes not too long ago, but I took her out. Not because she was not learning anything but because I deemed all that learning unnecessary in comparison to the cons. It was more stress trying to get her ready on time, get to class in time, and be done with it before she even warmed up to it. The classes were pointlessly an unnecessary headache in our case, to be honest. An unnecessary expectation from myself and the child to follow what the cool mothers of my generation are supposed to be doing. Bah. How wrong was I!
What we do at home now instead:
Read books that we get from the library every week
Tickle each other until one of us cries (ok, I make her cry :P)
Sit on a couch staring at the street counting the cars passing us by
Dance around the house
Do chores like laundry, dishes, cooking etc.
Cold iron the carpet
Go to the park
Play in the grass
Go to the river
Go hiking up a small trail
Ride her tricycle
Listen to music
Kick a ball in the yard
Spend rest of the time either sleeping, talking to each other, eating, or changing clothes (that she does by herself) given that is her favorite activity at the moment.
When do I have time to schedule any other activity? We are already always on the go.
Having no expectations from myself helps immensely. I don’t expect myself to be able to teach her anything just as much as I don’t expect her to learn. So every time, she says or does something new, it is always a pleasant surprise for me and makes my job all the more worthwhile. All I do with her all day is play with her and talk to her. She enjoys it. I enjoy it, and hopefully, I am not screwing her up too much. We don’t do anything that she does not show any interest in. She is not a big fan of toys. We don’t bother with them. She doesn’t care to sit and paint or color. We don’t bother with anything art at the moment. At the same time, we do everything with a full on passion that she shows even the slightest bit of an interest in. We are avid play ground goers because she loves it. We are swimming enthusiasts as well. We spend plenty of time at the library too, and reading many different kinds of books. We also play with one – just one – particular doll that she is currently obsessed with by putting it to sleep, feeding it, hugging it, loving it plenty times in the day.
The goal that I’ve set for myself in my job as a mother is to simply ensure that my kid is well rested, well fed, and always has fun while constantly feeling loved and protected by someone who she can fully entrust herself to. Nothing else. She is learning her ABCs, days of the week, months of the year, and plenty more as we go along because we talk about these things all day in various settings. We could be talking rainbows one day if she spotted one, and we would learn rainbow colors that day. At this age, she is like a sponge, and luckily for me, she picks on things quite fast to surprise me and make me happy and proud (for her and for myself ;)). But, like I said, none of these teachings figure into my goal. Definitely, ABCs and the likes are essential tools for anyone’s success, I feel that it’s more important that my child develops confidence in her abilities first and foremost to learn those skills.
For that, I talk to her a lot. About a variety of stuff. Ask her questions on things that I tell her. Ask her to finish sentences for me. Make up a lot of stories. I am always telling her stories about how much she is loved and treasured. A much altered version of the ugly duckling story is also one of my favorites to share. I also tell her stories that remind her to not talk to strangers, to stay with her mom and dad in an unfamiliar setting, and to always ask her parents before trusting any new person. I, in fact, didn’t even know this would work until last week when she went out grocery shopping with my mom. My mom introduced her to a friend of hers, but the little brat didn’t even go beyond saying a ‘hello’ to the friend. When we asked her about that later when she came home, she said, “because I ask Mama”. Imagine my surprise!! Told you right? Ha!! That’s the BEST part of a mother’s job.
You keep doing what you feel is right … enjoy every minute of it … do not expect any results … and when the results do come on their own accord, they make every bit of your hard work worth it :).