Sunday, August 18, 2013

It's the little things

I only have my daughter for half the week. Even though I'm not an avid fan, the boyfriend periodically will remind me how comedian Louis C. K. finds himself a better parent because of only having his kids half the week. I guess that's true. I get to give 100 percent in that concentrated amount of time, rather than stretching my energy over the course seven days.

For a long time when the separation was new, I would hold myself to the expectation of having something fun planned for every time I had L. That got to be too much energy and waaaay too much money. I've also realized that L. gets as much excitement from pulling up to our neighborhood park as she does when we drive halfway up the state for free admission at Kidcity Children's Museum every third Thursday of the month. It recently resonated with me that it's the little things when I see her that add up to big memories.

Here we are at the park and L. is being chased by little Freddy Krueger.
Five minutes later, little Freddy would not share any of the sand toys.
Little Freddy Krueger is a jerk.

Even though my days off are actually in the middle of the week, I still refer to these days as the weekend when I have L. I have her another morning in the middle of my work week, as well. This past "weekend" I had her, we set up a playdate with my friend from high school to take our kids, born two weeks apart, to Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport. It was $12 for my admission, but L. and her friend C. got in free.

I'm sure she's at the age at which she'll remember things. I remember things from her age like climbing out of my crib and getting into mischief when I was awake and on the loose before anyone else was up. So I'll always wonder what she'll remember about what we do. She may just have fake memories from being able to look at the photos. I know I have a lot of those.

Whether she remembers actually being there, I know her mind was shaped in those two hours just by how she reacted to what she saw. She saw animals that she had only read about in books. She learned about half-a-dozen new words. And, I knew she liked staring at the fish in the fish tank at the library, but I had no idea she would be as fascinated by newts as she was.

I learned that little fact: She likes creatures that swim. And she learned the word, "Newt."

When we saw the tiger. She stared at it, looked at me and said/asked, "Kitty?"

I said, "Yes, that's a very big kitty. Much bigger than Little Man, even." 

Even at the mention of Little Man -- one of her trigger words that will usually send her into a searching frenzy for him -- she could not be swayed from staring at the tiger as he paced the pen slowly.

We're all about the stripes.
Striped eater

We found our way over to the peacock cutouts in which children were putting their faces and posing for photos. Without even a prompt from me, she waited her turn and climbed on the platform behind the cutout and poked her face out and waited for me to take a few shots.


It didn't occur to me at the time, but the more I think about all the things she observes and then tries for herself, I realize how important it is to remember when she's around me, she's constantly using me as an example for what to do.

When we saw children climb up on a pony statue, of course she wanted to do the same thing.

Earlier that morning, when I put some curlers in my hair to tame my bedhead, she wanted curlers too. It was the ONLY time I have been able to style her hair in weeks, in fact! She's going through a phase in which brushing or trying to put her hair up "hurts," according to her.

Her monkey see, monkey do tendencies made her the hit of the park the next day when a family was working out together. I was really impressed with the parents and their three kids and how they were so motivated to move. While the daughter in the group was doing burpees (a term I only know because of Pinterest, by the way), L. made her way over and tried doing them with her! While one of the brothers was stepping up on a bench and stepping down, L. joined the dad in counting his reps. And, the best part, when they all did jumping jacks as a group, L. joined in and even said, "Come on, Mom!"

"Come on, Mom, come on!"
Her new favorite phrase.

And, when the boyfriend pulled out his jerseys and hockey gear to show a friend, L. quickly put on her jersey, grabbed the gloves and wanted a match right then and there.

Sometimes, even especially as an adult, it's easy to forget the little things. I don't have to plan for an epic "weekend" because just watching L. grow and learn so many things in just the span of a few days is more than epic. And when I get her again for our next weekend, sometimes it's seems overwhelming to come up with ways to amuse and enrich her. And it's easy to get trapped into the cycle of television-watching. 

But I've found the more I get her out into the world, the more little things add up to big things. Things I would take for granted, I have to remember, are still new to her. She needs me to explain them, even if she doesn't understand everything I'm saying.

The Rose Garden at Boothe Park in Stratford.
One of our favorite places to visit.

The more little moments I can mentally collect (and, with the use of my iPhone, I can capture just a small portion of those tiny moments to show others), the more I can look back on our weekends and feel accomplished.

Taken from a screenshot of a video taken with the phone
strategically placed in my bra. Yup, I go to those
extremes to capture faces like this.
Going along with my whole mission statement of not trying to live up to some unattainable supermom ideal, I need the constant reminders that it's the little things that'll add up to big things later in life. Maybe L. will want to work with animals one day and our trip to the zoo will have contributed to that in a tiny way. Maybe she'll want to play hockey in school, which the boyfriend will have contributed to by just goofing around with her. Maybe she'll decide she wants to help people get and stay healthy and active because of some distant memory she might not even remember at the park. Or maybe she'll grow beautiful flowers in a garden one day because of the beauty she saw at a rose garden we frequently visit.

Then again, maybe she won't do any of these things. But she'll have experienced them to know they're not for her in the long run. And I'd rather have her be able to walk past an open door that doesn't suit her in life then get to one that is shut because we didn't give her the opportunity to explore something now.