Do other moms stress as much as I do about how I can raise my little boy into a good, adult human? I don’t just want him to be a functional member of society, but rather a positive contribution and change-maker of society…whatever that may look like in 20 years. This thought makes planning my days with him very challenging. While I sip my morning Caramel White Mocha and watch him push his cars along the couch, windowsill, and tables, chattering (mostly) incomprehensibly to himself, I am deep in thought.
Despite being on the floor with him driving on make-believe roads, I’m worlds away and on autopilot as I manage my own internal struggle. My son has no concept of the alternate realities unfurling in my mind. I don’t want to waste a minute with his abundant learning capabilities, but then play is the highest form of research, according to one extremely intelligent man.
My mind is overloaded with questions.
Do I let him play on his own? Would I be negligent if he plays alone for awhile? How long is appropriate for a two-year-old? Do I keep playing with him to encourage his social interaction and language development? Or am I hovering and inhibiting his capacity to play solo? Do I make one of the millions of sensory play things from my Pinterest board? Should I buy him an iPad and download some educational apps so he learns how to use today’s technology? His pediatrician said the cut-off for that was two years, right? Should I read to him now? Scratch that last idea, he hates when I read to him.
What about taking him to a museum today? Would a play space be better for his social-emotional development? He loves going for walks; a nature hike would be a great idea this morning. That sounds great, except it’s really hot and I am still afraid of bees. Oh, the pool! I could work on teaching him to swim. My husband, Ross, will definitely want to go, so I’ll save that for when he gets off work.
As my mind races, Griffin switches gears and starts playing with pretend food and dishes. I ask him if he wants to make slime or edible play-doh. “No momma, nomnoms,” he says. OK, then. Now what?
Why can’t I just come up with something productive and engaging to do with him? He’s two–it shouldn’t take this much mental energy!
In a last ditch effort to see what kid-led thing he might be interested in doing, I run down the list: watch a show, listen and dance to music, paint, color, help me with laundry/dishes, go to Target, play with his dolls/stuffies, play catch/soccer, build a fort, drive to the park, make cookies…ad nauseum. To which, I hear a resounding “NO!” at each inquiry. I ask him if he wants to play alone and he looks up at me, smiles, gives an exasperated sigh, and says “Yes.” So I smile back and take my coffee into the other room to read a book quietly to myself.
The boy seems genuinely happy doing his thing. Who am I to impose on his idea of fun and contentment?
The last half hour was wasted overthinking. I was too “in my head” to just watch and take in the natural learning process and fun my kid was already thoroughly enjoying.
Then it starts again: Am I raising a kid that is too independent? Does he have the highly stigmatized “Only Child Syndrome”? Will he have normal social skills? Is he actually bored out of his mind? Am I being a disengaged mom? Does my work have a positive or negative effect on his perception of me as his mom and/or as a woman? Does he think I’m ignoring him? Should I try engaging with him more? Does he feel like I don’t want to play with him? Am I depriving him of a better childhood by keeping less toys in the house and rotating them, Montessori style? Should I give in and buy more toys? Who am I kidding–that would make all three of us a little more crazy and entitled. He doesn’t know any different and most likely doesn’t care!
Would daycare be better for some variety? Should I force the reading thing, or is it good enough that he sees that I enjoy reading regularly? Should we talk about emotions? When do I introduce body awareness and consent? Is his diet balanced and appropriate? Considering we had donuts and juice for breakfast three mornings this week, probably not. I resolve to get up earlier and make him a healthy breakfast.
Does he think I’m a good mom? Would he prefer if daddy were home with him more than I am? Are we doing a good job modeling equal parenting and non-gender-specific stereotypes? By not wearing makeup and dressing for comfort, am I sending him the right message about real women or am I just using that as an excuse to be lazy?
After another ten minutes of internal critiquing, Griffin runs over and gives me a long hug and a quick kiss. He trots off, giggling and goes back to playing in the other room.
I must be doing something right, though I still have no idea what that something is!
For more information and support in the area on Anxiety and Depression related to parenthood, you can check out Motherhood Wellness Group on Facebook.