After being sick for a few days, I was looking forward to a day off so that I could recuperate. I had made plans for a long nap and catching up on mindless TV. These plans were put on hold, however, when N woke up with a fever too. I knew I would be home taking care of him all day instead, but wondered, who takes care of mommy?
The day began with both us taking our antipyretics. Then there was mindless TV, but it was on the Sprout channel. After breakfast, coloring, snacks, and games in the playroom, we both started to get cranky. Amusing two sick people indoors all day is a difficult task, especially when mommy’s brain is in a fog. Thankfully, a large box arrived in the mail and toddler imagination ran wild!
The best part of our sick day was the extra cuddling. Doctor mommy encouraged drinking fluids, staying inside, and lots of hand-washing and doctor toddler prescribed extra snuggles. At one point, N, a stuffed elephant, and I formed a triple-layer sandwich with our febrile faces pressed against each other. It was more healing than any nap I could have imagined.
After today, if I have to stay home sick again, I wouldn’t mind a sick buddy– especially one who gives such cute hugs.
I had a very special brunch date today with my son. He’s been staying home with me on Tuesdays, my work-from-home day that allows me the privilege of extra time with my son and my work is luckily flexible enough to be shifted to nap time, evenings, and weekends. As he became increasingly comfortable at nursery school I began to wonder if keeping him home with me was selfish—he loves school, has many friends, and learns a ton from his teachers. I didn’t know if Tuesdays with Mommy could compare, but as a working mom the bonding time is important and special to me, so they continued.
Today we accomplished something for which I have been waiting a long time. B and I have taken N out to eat MANY times, sometimes successfully, sometimes leaving restaurants in shame or with very generous tips, but I had not yet done this on my own. I’ll admit that mostly this is because I was overwhelmed at the idea of taking him to an actual restaurant without an extra set of hands. Usually one of us preoccupies him while the other childproofs the table and digs through the diaper bag for toys, snacks, and other tricks of the trade. I worried that this would be too much for me to do alone.
With a recent burst in language and declining number of tantrums, I decided to brave it as part of our Tuesday adventures. I asked N if he wanted grilled cheese and with the ensuing repetition of “cheese, cheese, cheese” I agreed that we should head out to a local café. We were lucky that our waitress seemed to understand the urgency to ordering and bringing our food promptly. I ordered French toast and N ordered grilled cheese. He of course ate my French toast and ignored the grilled cheese.
A major difference about today’s brunch though, besides being the solo parent, was there was no diaper bag full of distractors, there was no pacing around the restaurant, and there was no screaming. We sat and had a civilized, almost adult meal. We discussed the “straw straws” (strawberries) that came with the French toast, we said “buh-bye” to the ladies at the table next to us, and we politely asked for water when thirsty. We ate off plates. No food touched the ground.
In the haze that is sometimes working full time and parenting, I sat at the café table today and saw my little baby as the little boy he is becoming. I glimpsed a future of brunches together where we share stories and meals like friends. If I didn’t already treasure these Tuesdays together, I certainly did today. I’m looking forward to next week already.
Everyone likes Sesame Street and even critics of television give Sesame Street support. Like many of you, I grew up watching Sesame Street, however, I remember the traditional characters of Oscar the Grouch, Big Bird, and Snuffleupagus, making a bigger impression on me than Elmo. My first real Elmo memory is from college, when I got the Special Edition Tickle Me Elmo as an audience gift on the Rosie O’Donnell Show. At that time though, Elmo symbolized the chance of winning $200,000, rather than educational children’s television.
I have allowed N to watch Sesame Street multiple times, but it has yet to capture his interest. Whenever on TV, he points at Big Bird and shouts “banana,” obviously leading me to believe he wasn’t really following this show. With minimal exposure to Elmo, you can imagine my surprise when at Barnes and Noble he pointed to a stuffed version and shouted, “Elmooooo,” in that classic falsetto preschooler tone. How did he already have character recognition for something to which he had less than 20 minutes of cumulative television exposure?
Elmo is everywhere, that’s how. Exhibit A: Elmo is on the fruit pouches he eats on a daily basis.
Exhibit B: Elmo appears on so many articles of clothing that in any given week at least one classmate is wearing Elmo paraphernalia.
Exhibit C: Elmo loves to party. He shows up in the party décor and cupcakes at 75%* of birthday parties for kids under the age of 3 (*this is a fabricated statistic, but I’ve been to enough baby parties to make a pretty good guess).
Exhibit D: Elmo is a party pooper. As I was working on writing this piece, I was doing a diaper change and N pointed to his Pamper shouting “Elmo” and lo and behold that little red rascal is on our diapers too. I hadn’t previously realized that I wrapped my toddler in Elmo every day.
And yes, sometimes my support of Elmo is more volitional. When an Elmo character arrived at a party, I rushed to hand over my baby to this costumed stranger for the sake of a good photograph.
There are worse characters on television for N to recognize and enjoy, so I’m not discouraging his interest in Elmo. It makes me more aware though of the influence of television characters on children and their presence in children’s lives beyond television.
I am amazed that despite the recent negative Kevin Clash publicity, Elmo’s image is going strong in the kiddie product market. I imagine I’ll continue to run into him at school, the grocery store, and parties for years to come. Maybe the next time I see him, I’ll ask who does his marketing, because that’s someone who deserves some recognition!
There’s a new playground in town, except it’s an old playground with a new facelift. Of course, the reopening quickly attracted every parent looking for weekend entertainment, including us, and after a short walk we were back at Seger Playground, exploring the new slides, swings, and twirling things. Any parent who walks past Seger regularly knows how highly anticipated this opening was for the preschool scene. Once interested in gallery openings, where we discussed the art, fashion, and wine, we now find ourselves on playgrounds analyzing the climbing equipment with the same scrutiny.
A red rope course linking pieces of playground equipment enticed kids big and small, but once on it the little ones were overwhelmed by how challenging it actually is. A rescue by dad and we were back on track. There were plenty of options for climbing though besides the ropes and I think we tackled all of them. For sensory-seekers like N, there were not only swings, but see-saws and spinning pyramids.
As parents we enjoyed the cushioned terrain for the inevitable toddler stumbles and the well-gated and separated toddler area. It took a whole 15 minutes before N realized there was another area for the “big kids.” The only complaint was there were not enough garbage cans around for disposal of the tissues that I always end up stuffing in my pockets. As I’ve mentioned here before, we have a garbage obsession in our household, so in some ways the lack of garbage cans in the play area limited that distraction.
It’s amazing how quickly I remember the excitement of a new playground: exploring new places, playing new games, and meeting new people. My husband has a story he tells about “painting” a wooden playground boat with water with a preschool friend and they reminisce about this childhood innocence as adults. I met a friend when she broke her clavicle falling from the McDonald’s playspace slide and we ended up roommates nearly twenty years later. It is this sort of impact that childhood play has on us that I am excited to watch unfold as we venture to the various Philadelphia playgrounds each weekend. I love watching N’s imagination develop and in entering his pretend world, I get to relive my own.
Here are some of my other favorite Philly playgrounds/parks:
I knew that in parenting a son I would be out of my comfort zone on more than a few occasions, however, I had no idea how often we would be discussing garbage. “Gar-gar,” as N affectionately calls it, is the topic of almost all conversations. Sometimes when he wakes, yet to be rescued from his crib, I hear him babbling about gar-gar and it makes me laugh.
He brings garbage that he finds to the nearest garbage can, points to any garbage cans or trucks he sees on the street, and drives his toy garbage trucks around our house– it’s all about garbage. At first, having him pick up pieces of garbage and run them to the trash can was helpful: “here, put this in the garbage for mommy.” Then, when he started collecting garbage on the playground it became less cute and I became more germaphobic.
I’ve learned that many little boys are obsessed with garbage trucks at this age (and I’ve been reassured that they usually outgrow it). If your son is as well, I recommend the Green Toys Recycling Truck as it has provided many hours of durable play at our house. I like to think of N’s garbage obsession as a sign of a budding environmentalist and so his toys reflect that.
One of the most peculiar garbage experiences yet though occurred as we watched our garbage being collected one Saturday morning. N yelled “hi” from our doorway as he watched the men fling bottles and cardboard into the monstrous metal machine. He squealed with excitement as the driver honked and waved. Then, the driver came running up to our door and handed me $3. Baffled by this generous gesture, I immediately refused it. However, he waved the dollars at me with pleading eyes and said, “come on, it’s for the baby. Trash men have a heart too.”
Three dollars richer, I thought about what to do with the money. N already has a savings account, so I thought about doing something more frivolous with the money. I could buy him a new gar-gar truck, but our playroom already has at least 4 and I’m thinking that’s over-quota. So, I decided to use the money as an inspiration to invest in some stocks and created an Education Savings Account. I bought some child inspired stock to get it started and hope that as it grows along with N we can learn together about saving, investing, and taking risks. While my hope for his savings accounts are that they help pay for his education someday, I hope he also learns from the man who helped contribute to it and shows kindness to strangers. I know he will pay it forward. After all, gar-gar men have a heart.