In many ways, Mary Tyler Dad is a better parent than I am. He has a capacity to be with Mary Tyler Son and not feel pressured by the dirty dishes or the laundry or the piles of toys that have migrated out of the playroom and into the living room, bedroom, bathroom, closet, etc. I fully get that what I just wrote sounds a bit like a backhanded compliment, but it’s not. It is full on compliment. When my two boys are together, they are together. Really together. Not distracted by screens or Blackberries or household chores.
I feel eternally distracted around the boy when at home. It’s why I plan activities out of the house for us when I am with him alone the days I don’t work at the office. I am a way better parent looking for spiders at the Botanic Gardens or milking cows at Wagner Farm or wondering at jellyfish at the aquarium or even shopping for groceries and marveling at the dead fish for sale behind the glass counter. Distractions have been removed. No screens, no laundry, no dinner, no blog to write, no facebook to check, no mess to clean up. Just me and my boy, having another adventure in the world.
I think Mary Tyler Son knows this about his parents. It’s why nine times out of ten he wants to play with Dad at 6:00 AM instead of me. It makes me feel selfish and small and guilty as hell. But I don’t mind crowds and events as much as Mary Tyler Dad, who would be perfectly content to take the kid to the park every day as his outing. It’s our parenting yin and yang, and for the most part, it works.
On Monday, I had a fundraising meeting way out in the suburbs. It was with other moms, so we planned to meet at a cafe and play type place. It was good — coffee and caffeine for the moms and lots of amusements for the little ones. Our sons played while we planned. I teased Mary Tyler Son mercilessly on the drive out, telling him the place we were going was called NAP-erville and that there was a town rule that all children had to sleep the whole time they were there. He had giggle fits with this idea. Scheduling worked out fairly well until I realized I had nothing to serve for dinner and needed to stop at a grocery before home. Strategically I reviewed the pros and cons and decided to shop in the suburbs in case Mary Tyler Son fell asleep on the long drive home. Nothing worse that waking up from a sound snooze and having your mom drag you into a grocery store to buy onions.
With groceries quickly bought and settling in for the hour drive home, I knew my mom mission was to keep the kid awake to preserve his nap time at home in a proper bed rather than in a car seat. We weren’t far off, but cutting it awful close. I used my most animated voice to announce a new game — The Question Game was born. For about forty-five minutes I shot questions to the boy for him to answer. He surprised me with his responses. Here are just some of the things I learned:
- He would rather eat Rice Krispies than anything else for breakfast, lunch, and dinner;
- Given the choice of visiting anywhere in the world, he would choose the Shedd Aquarium;
- The flower he will give all future romantic interests will be the dandelion; and
- When taking a trip around the world, his preferred mode of transport would be the rocket ship.
We had fun. The lack of distractions allowed us to just be together. I like my kid. He is smart, clever, silly, naughty, witty. Plus, he has the best hair ever. And the Question Game worked, as he nodded off just ten minutes from home and transferred like a champ, for another 90 minutes of peace in his bed.
Yesterday, we were walking home from the babysitter and Mary Tyler Son noticed all the seeded dandelions sprouting up. The gorgeous, fluffy kind. I saw them because he showed them to me. I saw them and realized that, yeah, the dandelion is a beauty, in both its forms. It’s yellow is floral sunshine and it’s delicate seeds creating the fluffy globe effect are gorgeous, in their own way.
I’m grateful to have a kid to help me connect to the wonder that is all around us. Too often it gets lost in the noise and the chaos of life. Sometimes I think that because I will always and forever have a four year old daughter, I will always and forever be open to that wonder that our kids connect with so easily. I hope so. Geez, it’s the least the Universe could do for me.
So rather than hurry home and think about folding the laundry or cooking dinner, Mary Tyler Son and I took our sweet time enjoying those dandelions. He picked four — two for me and two for him. He made the most hilarious faces, looking like the Big Bad Wolf trying to blow those seeds off their stem. It took a while, but he got every last one. When his were finished, he asked for mine. When those were done, he asked for a vase for the stems. And that vase sits on the kitchen counter surrounded by last night’s dishes that didn’t get done. Laundry is still unfolded, too. I might get to it tonight. I might not. Depends on what adventures are in store for my boy and I.