Reflections on a child-free day…

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Yesterday I had some meetings and errands I needed to run. The Bear has had a little cold and I didn’t want to drag her along, so I had our great babysitter come over for the day (don’t ask me for her number, by the way –I ain’t sharing!) and set out on my first kid-free day in months. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love The Bear more than anything in the world, but I was really looking forward to a day on my own to get some adult stuff done. I was even going to try to squeeze in something fun, like eating by myself at In ‘n’ Out while reading the new Us Magazine (ah, the things you consider fun when you have a child).

Well, let me tell you this: the world can be a scary, scary place when you haven’t ventured out without your kid(s) in a while. I never realized how much more secure I am when The Bear is with me: I’m more responsible and cautious, I don’t curse, I make sure I allow time to eat lunch, I pack water and snacks for the car, I listen to relaxing folk music instead of talk radio, I’m nicer to people (and they’re nicer to me, too). Overall, I’m a better, smarter person when my child is in tow.

There was none of that yesterday. Here are just a few examples:

1)     I went to a walk-in clinic for a check-up at a place I found on my phone GPS the night before. I never would’ve taken The Bear to a walk-in clinic. Not that I’m bashing walk-in clinics: my doctor was lovely and seemed to really know his stuff, but before The Bear’s first check-up in our new town, I spent literally weeks researching the best pediatricians in our area, then narrowed down my choices and interviewed the candidates before settling on “the one.”

2)     I drove like a 16-year-old on her first day with a license.  After getting the car smog checked, I rear-ended someone in the parking lot. I was so anxious to get to my next appointment, I didn’t even realize a giant pickup truck had pulled in behind my parking spot, and I rammed right into his bumper as I pulled out (yes, I left a note, especially after setting off his alarm system, which drew a little crowd – fun!). When I’m driving with The Bear onboard, my driving habits resemble a cross between a little old lady and a driver’s ed instructor. Yesterday, I didn’t even think to check if someone had pulled in behind me before throwing it in reverse and giving myself minor whiplash.

3)     I spent three hours at the DMV because I didn’t make an appointment. I figured, “well, I won’t have the baby with me, so what’s a few extra minutes in line? I can read a book!” Well, you can’t read a book when you’re in a line that stretches outside the building and into the parking lot and it’s 95 degrees out and the sun’s beating down on you. “M’am, you didn’t make an appointment?” asked the helpful security guard when he realized I was melting. “Why don’t you come back tomorrow with an appointment?” But I was too stubborn to leave at that point, so I stoically waited another two hours until I got my license plates. Any parent reading this would agree: you would never bring an energetic toddler to a busy DMV on a hot day. Why would you force yourself to do it alone when it’s way easier to go online and make an appointment?

4)     I ate my lunch in the car, while driving, and spilled half of it all over my light-colored sundress, effectively ruining it. I did finally manage to get to In ‘n’ Out, but it was now 4pm–past lunchtime, and way past the time I told the sitter I’d be home. Instead of leisurely flipping through a tabloid magazine while nibbling a grilled cheese, I opted for the drive thru, and promptly dumped most of my lunch on my lap while navigating a turning lane.  When we eat out with The Bear, it’s all about sitting down, chewing our food, high chairs, bibs, songs about broccoli… the only song I was singing yesterday was the blues because my sandwich was in my lap and not my empty stomach.

Fast forward to 4:30 pm when I returned home to find my house tidied and my child blissfully asleep. “Everything go ok?” I asked, expecting to be regaled with the usual stories of The Bear antagonizing the dog and/or drinking toilet water. But, no. “She’s just so joyful,” my sitter said with a laugh as she left for the day. “She’s such a little mood booster!”

Indeed. My two lessons for the day are these:

Parents, take care of yourselves. Be the person you want your child to be. You cut your daughter’s bananas up in bite-sized pieces and make sure her blankie is clean. Do the same for yourselves! You’ve got to be at 100% to keep up with your little ones, so treat yourself well.

…and, even more important:

Don’t take your littles for granted, even on the days when you just want to throw up your hands and give up because they’re acting a little challenging. You may not realize how much they enrich your life and make you a better person until you’re out there on your own, in that scary world we call reality.

My husband and I have a theory that it’s easier to socialize in large groups of strangers when your child is with you, because the child acts as a buffer between you and the scary outside world.  You might never just walk up to a complete stranger and introduce yourself, but if your child happens to wander up to theirs, it’s so much easier to strike up a conversation and have a laugh about what those crazy toddlers are up to.  [For you dog parents out there, B and I have the same philosophy about how it’s simpler to make friends in the neighborhood when you’re walking the dog, because your dogs break the ice for you when they engage in that lovely doggy greeting ritual of sniffing each other’s unmentionables. I can’t tell you how many friends we had in our old neighborhood in Chicago that we only knew as “Button’s Dad” or “Fluffy’s Mom.”]

Thankfully, our kids have no idea we’re secretly using them as a social shield and excuse to better ourselves. While they’re taking everything in for the first time under the safe and watchful gaze of mommy or daddy, we’re protecting ourselves at the same time, creating a protective little bubble around both of us that keeps the nasties out and the good stuff in.

So, take some time out today in between scrubbing the crayon off your walls, changing poopy diapers or childproofing your kitchen to thank your kids… for keeping you safe, too.

Have a great day, friends!
xoxo

Erin

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6 thoughts on “Reflections on a child-free day…

  1. Great advice Erin! I am the mother of B and the grandmother of Bear. I can tell you that even the mention of your children among strangers creates an air of respect and awe. Especially if you embellish the number of your children. Perhaps 9 instead of 4? Try it, you also can be treated like Rose Kennedy..

  2. Some of my dearest and closest friends I have met through my children….either in their grade school years, dance lesssons or high school years and even beyond…..these are the friendships that you will carry for a very long, long time!

  3. You are a complete delight!!! Enjoying your writing even though I’m well past the “mommy years.” Sounds like you & your family are doing well in CA. See you around when you come back “home” to LB, IN!! Doria LeMay

  4. This is so funny because I spent 2.5 hours at the DMV today and wished I had brought snacks and water…I did find a bag of fruit snacks in my purse. Sadly, I wasn’t prepared, so I have to go back tomorrow!! Ugh. I had a sitter today, but am braving it with kids in tow tomorrow. Marita

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