My 7yo son was home sick one day last week. Nothing serious, just enough to keep him out of school for the day. He’s rarely sick. At first I worried about how I would get my work done. But I quickly realized that having a second-grader around is NOTHING like having a preschooler around. First of all, he can read and change the channels by himself, and also get a snack and use the bathroom without my assistance. The freedom I felt was thrilling. Not to mention the peace and quiet in the house.
After awhile, I began to feel guilty that I was ignoring my poor, sick baby. He was probably bored. And I had gotten a big chunk of my work done that morning. We had a couple hours left before the 5yo hellion came home. “Want to go to the library?” I suggested.
“Sure, Mom.” So off we went. We picked out books on how to build a treehouse. (A pipe dream, since we have no big trees in our yard.) He picked out his usual pile of graphic novels and chapter books, and some Ninja Turtle books for his little brother. I thought that was sweet.
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d spent time just with Miles. It was nice. Without the little one being the squeaky wheel, I could actually have a conversation with my firstborn. When did he get so grown-up? He’s like a real person now, who can make puns and understand sarcasm.
We were having such a good time I didn’t want it to end. On the drive home I swung into Dunkin Donuts. “How about a treat?” He picked out the gaudiest, sugariest donut in the place. Who knew they even made Peeps donuts? And how often do you get to eat something that matches your sweatshirt? He hugged me around the waist. “Thanks for taking me here, Mom. Can we bring a donut home for Riley?”
Spending one-on-one time with each of your kids is one of those things moms are supposed to do, right? Like weekly date nights with your spouse. This advice always makes me feel angry and guilty at the same time. In what world? Who has the time, energy, and babysitter funds for that? But as with all those other “supposed to’s,” I find that what works for some doesn’t work for all.
I suddenly remembered another time I’d taken Miles out by himself, for a special birthday breakfast when he was 3. My younger son was only a few months old, and I was still feeling that mom-guilt from displacing my only son from his pedestal in the center of our world. So I made a big deal about our breakfast date. I talked it up, made a show of dropping off the baby at the sitter’s so we could have our special Mommy-and-big-boy time together.
Well, it was a disaster. First, I picked what I thought was a whimsical, fun diner in an artsy section of town. But my Miles thought the doll heads and vintage Pez dispensers glued on the walls were “freaky.” (In retrospect, he may have had a point.) And before the waitress even brought out the blueberry pancakes the size of his head, he slumped over the table and moaned, “Why did you bring me here? This would be more funner if Riley was here. Look, they have highchairs.” He pointed accusingly. So much for special alone-time with Mommy.
Fast-forward 4 years. This sick day outing was nice because it was unplanned. Low-pressure. Not mandated by some parenting expert. I think sometimes we get caught up in the shoulda/woulda/coulda and make things more complicated than they need to be. Sometimes it’s just about you and your kid and a donut.