I spent a really wonderful day with my Baby T on Sunday. My husband and the older two trekked off the the cinema to watch the new Disney film, leaving me with the very un-cinema-friendly toddler. I have to guiltily admit, I really thought I’d drawn the short straw and was feeling rather hard done by. No popcorn or warm, fuzzy Disney feeling for me, just a day with my often challenging and difficult youngest. I am sorry to say that I had low expectations. I also had a bit of a hangover from the night before, so the only part of the day I was looking forward to was T’s nap, so I could drink tea and watch reruns of crap Saturday night TV.
But I was totally wrong. It was a fun, happy day and we had a ball. I took my little lad to the very wet park, wrapped up in a vast hand-me-down waterproof and wellies, and let him do just what the hell he pleased. And what he wanted to do more than anything was explore. We were in the playground for all of five minutes before he was standing at the gate pointing out into the large expanse of muddy grass, puddles and unexplored wonders. So off we went. Pushchair free, with his tiny hand in mine, we wandered back and forth, here and there, taking in everything at T’s pottering pace. There were no older kids to keep an eye out for or to complain about our meandering. We just did exactly what T wanted to do, weaving in and out of trees, wading through puddles, watching tennis and bowls practice.
I had forgotten how endearing this toddler wandering is. We did a lot of it when H was young, not so much with M and so far we have done next to none of it with T. It is a disadvantage of being the youngest of three kids, all pretty close in age: I simply can’t allow him to wander off wherever he wants to when I have two more to watch and keep happy. And he just loved having the chance to do his own thing with his beloved Mummy all to himself, watching him and smiling encouragingly. The delight on his face was heart-melting.
Following our park jaunt, we went for lunch for two, involving chips for my hangover. I was a little wary about attempting lunch out in a restaurant and I almost bottled it and took him home as he was pretty exhausted after all that exploring. But after such a lovely morning, I wanted to make the most of our time together, so we braved a child-friendly restaurant.
The reason for my trepidation was that a horrific trip to a tea room last Wednesday was still very fresh in my memory. Wednesdays are pretty frustrating days for T, as he is dragged here and there to take the older two to back-to-back clubs. He is restrained in car seats and pushchairs all afternoon, with never a chance to do what he wants. It all suddenly became too much for him when I tried to restrain him, yet again, in a highchair in a quiet tea room and he totally lost it. He had a hefty screaming tantrum and I ended up leaving, yelling toddler under one arm, tea untouched, both T and me in tears and a bewildered M carrying the biscuit that she’d just been given and then told she couldn’t eat as we had to go.
So, you’ll understand why I was anxious. But our lunch together couldn’t have been more different. T became a model baby. He sat beautifully, ate bucketloads, babbled adorably and was utterly delighted to be presented with both a balloon and chips simultaneously. Toddler heaven.
I don’t know whether this impeccable behaviour was down to the fact that he’d just spent an hour exploring at his pace and doing what he wanted to do, or whether it was down to having his Mum’s undivided attention. Perhaps it was just a random fluke, but it was just wonderful.
Our lovely Sunday really made me think. I felt guilty for not wanting to be left at home with my wonderful boy and I realised I need to try to make time for more T and me days. In September, when M starts school, we’ll be able to make up for lost time in that department as we’ll have three days a week of just we two. I had been rather worried about that to be honest, about becoming his soul entertainer with his much loved big sister off at school. I’m not worried any more, I’m actually looking forward to it. Sure, we are bound to have days when we drive each other nuts, but we never get to be just us two and we are both different when you remove some of the mayhem and other pressures. We can spend time getting to know each other better as he grows and learns, without everything being about the older two.
My baby is changing fast and I want to enjoy him more, rather than always thinking that he makes life difficult because of his age, that he makes it harder for me to balance family life. The needs of the older two are so often in conflict with his needs, and I think I’m guilty of thinking that their needs, if not exactly more important, take higher priority because they are more structured and logical. Just because we think it seems pointless to potter around in mud for an hour, for T it is a strong urge and deeply fulfilling. Why is that less important than H needing to go to a club, or M wanting her weekly ballet lesson? Time is a precious commodity in this family but I really do need to try to make more time to let T do his thing, even if it leads to complaints from the other two. I think this will get a lot easier as Spring turns to Summer and trips to the park become more regular. Think of all the pottering he will be able to do then.
It was so wonderful to see my baby boy in a fresh light this weekend, to stop seeing the negatives of still having a young child in our midst and to remember the joy of this wonderful, exciting stage, when the world is new and everything is there to be explored. I must remember to see things through his big baby-blue eyes more often and make more time for the simple things that mean the world to my little man. That will certainly lead to a happier Baby T, and a happier me.