It’s been raining a lot this past week and more is in the forecast for this coming week. I stop myself from complaining when I remember California is in a drought–we need this rain. And honestly, I’ve been enjoying the rain, but wish I could get outside more for a walk without getting all wet. I know we have nothing on you East coasters who really are stuck in your homes during winter snowstorms–so should I really be complaining about rain? Maybe not. But what makes it doubly difficult right now is feeling stuck inside with Zoey. There are some days where I’m in a zen-like mood and can tolerate the endless minutes of rubbing her dollies to sleep, and other times when I feel like I’ll go out of my mind. And then Stephen heard this Fresh Air podcast with Jennifer Senior, author of All Joy and No Fun who writes about the very struggles of parenting that Stephen and I are experiencing.
I remember before Zoey was born how I was thrilled that Stephen seemed to enjoy playing with his niece. I remember thinking how glad I was that he would enjoy playing with our children because I knew then that wasn’t something I would particularly enjoy doing. Let me do things like read, sing, cook, go for walks with our kids but the imaginative play I’d leave to him. I also remember thinking when Zoey was still an infant that I needed to entertain her and constantly stimulate her while she was awake. Little did I know then that she would be perfectly fine watching me go about my day without needing to have me stare, smile, and coo at her constantly. I know there are different thoughts nowadays about parenting, and I don’t plan to discuss any of them. I just started to realize, after talking with Stephen about our memories of our own childhood, how we don’t really recall our parents sitting down and spending most of the day being our playmates like we do with Zoey. And after listening to the Fresh Air podcast with Jennifer Senior, I wondered why I think it’s necessary to play from morning until night with our 2 1/2 year old daughter instead of eating a snack when I’m hungry, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, meal planning, knitting, or writing. All these everyday things I can easily do when she’s at daycare but become impossible the days she is here with us and we feel the need to entertain her and keep the peace (yes, I suppose we’ve trained her to expect us to be her playmates so that when we can’t play with her she will fuss and cry and persistently ask us to “come to her room just for a minute”).
When Stephen first told me the title of Jennifer Senior’s book, I thought–no, that’s not completely right. There are moments of joy and fun while parenting. If it weren’t so, I don’t think we would have chosen to have another child. But of course it’s always easier to focus on what’s difficult and challenging rather than the joyful, pleasant moments. And right now we’re in the thick of toddlerhood with Zoey. We tell her to go to the bathroom for tubby time–she says no and refuses. We tell her don’t stand on the chair–she ignores us and continues to jump off her chair. The push and pull sometimes feels endless. But then at the end of the day, she gives us a hug and a smile and somehow our hearts melt again and we thank God for blessing us with this gift of a child and we start all over the next day.
Some will say these toddler moments are fleeting–cherish them because before you know it, your child won’t want to play with you or spend time with you and then you’ll be missing those moments of today when you wished for something else. I know. I can see that moment in the future. So do we just accept this season of our life now? Or do we somehow strive for some balance between sometimes being a playmate and sometimes being a mama who has housework or hobbies that she partakes in? I ask these questions weeks before a new baby enters our lives. What will we do differently this time around? And it makes us question whether two is enough or will there be a third child down the road?