“Children are so clearly happiest when they have the time and space to explore their worlds, at play. We may be bouncing between the future and the past, yet our children – the little Zen masters – long to stay suspended, fully engaged, in the moment.”
If I were to name the biggest challenge since bringing a second baby into our world, it would have to focus on balance. In a world where it seems we are all on a quest to achieve that perfect balance between busy and slow, too much and not enough, etc., I have been feeling the same desire to balance my time and energy in how it's spent with my kids. I often feel torn. Do I do that puzzle with Cruz or rock Mila to sleep? Do I get dinner ready or spend that time playing a game? I realize now just how much of our time was devoted to Cruz and that before Mila, I measured my quality of parenting with quantity --- the amount of time I was giving to him. I think because of this, learning to adapt to two kids and having to tell Cruz "not right now" more occasionally has been a harder struggle for me than him. Because my time is now split, it's easy to feel as though I'm less of a parent to Cruz than I was before. This has ushered in feelings of guilt, but more recently, I've been reexamining how I measure the quality of time spent with him and realizing more and more that like anything, change oftentimes leads to revision, improvement, and ultimately, better versions of ourselves.
Last week, I asked my son on a date. We had an open day Sunday and I decided that a few hours away with my boy was exactly how I wanted to spend it. Because I am nursing and because Mila has become a bit of a mama's girl, our nights naturally become a game of man-to-man defense, me with Mila and Cruz gravitating to Beau. I felt like a few hours away with just Cruz would be good for us and good for Beau, who was anxious for a chance to bond with his girl. By the end of the week, the anticipation was set and our plans included a trip to the library followed with self-serve frozen yogurt at a place we haven't visited yet. Every time we talked about it, Cruz referred to it as date "night", probably because he's heard me and Beau use it a few times before. On Sunday, Beau gave Cruz a pep talk about how to behave, slipped him a ten dollar bill and told him it's courtesy to pay on a first date.
We've been to the library so many times before, but this time was different. My goal for the afternoon involved nothing but play, completely taking Cruz's lead and fully absorbing myself in his world for a few hours. We played in the play house, setting the table with all kinds of food, having in-depth conversations about broccoli, toasting our pretend juice, and going back and forth from the market to our house using the play cars in the middle of the library. I didn't try to persuade him to read the books I wanted to read, didn't attempt to steer him elsewhere, and didn't get my camera out for the first hour. We played for a long time, found our own little corner and read lots of superhero books, and climbed the stairs to check out the view of Main Street from the second floor.
Afterwards, we stopped at Brickhouse, a new froyo place in town. We were the only ones there and the sweet girl working let Cruz try as many flavors as he wanted before settling on some orange and strawberry. I picked him up and let him see the buffet of toppings, and he smiled from ear to ear when I handed him his creation, topped with fruit loops, sprinkles, and gummy bears. We sat at a tall table, talked about the fun we had at the library, and switched ice creams every now and then, per Cruz's request. It was sweet and by the time we left to head home, I felt like I was on top of the world.
I wore my boy out and carried his sleeping self to our bed like so many times before. And as I rubbed his back and watched his long eyelashes flutter into a deep sleep, I realized the importance of these little adventures. Not only for Cruz's sake, but for mine. It was a 'date' we'd had a thousand times before, but this time not a second was taken for granted. There we were, suspended in our present, where Cruz is at his very best. Getting lost in his little imaginative world for a couple of hours was the perfect escape for me, the perfect reminder that it isn't about the quantity, but the quality. And sometimes, less means a whole lot more.
We missed Daddy and Mila while we were gone, but decided to make a Cruz and mom date night once a month. Only next time, I'll know about that $10 in his pocket. :)