While I was pregnant with my daughter, I spent nine months imagining everything I would do with her, Googling how soon I could get her into swim lessons or seeing what weekend activities our area offers. I was determined to do anything and everything I could with her.
My daughter is now 18 months and guess what . . . she’s still not in swim lessons, or any other organized activities for that matter. Unfortunately, over the past few months I’ve found myself constantly wanting to be the mom who does, instead feeling like I’m just the mom who wants to do. Before having my daughter, I considered myself a doer, and imagined that would continue after having kids.
Lately though I’ve been kicking myself over it and questioning myself. Am I doing enough? Am I exposing her to enough? Oh my gosh, what if I’m stifling her? I fell into the trap of comparing myself to other mamas, almost agonizing over everything I was or wasn’t doing.
The other day I finally came up for air, pinpointing what, exactly, it was that was causing me to think about all of this. What it comes down to is seeing my daughter try something new, exploring and discovering, building on what she already knows, determining whether she does or does not like something. As she’s grown I’ve become more fascinated and intrigued by how her little mind works.
While seemingly simple, one recent example has stayed with me. She’d fuss when my husband or I wouldn’t give her the cup we thought she wanted to drink her milk out of. We’d fill a different cup with milk, and still, she refused it, pointing to yet another cup on the drying rack. We finally figured out it wasn’t about the milk; it was about the cup itself, rather the pieces of the cup. She wanted the cup, the lid, and the straw. My husband and I were fascinated as she put the pieces together and pulled them apart, repeating this over and over, until she was satisfied. She had watched us assemble her cups enough times to know what to do, and wanted to try it herself.
The grocery store was proving to be challenging as well, as she did not want to sit in the cart. It took some time but we finally realized she wanted to push the cart. So yes, she now gets to push the cart at the store. We help guide the cart with her, and yes, we may bump into a few things, but there’s nothing like seeing the triumph and happiness on my daughter’s face. She feels successful and independent just by being able to push the cart.
Recently, I wanted to take her to a soccer open house (do toddlers really play soccer?), trying to cram something else into an already-busy weekend. We didn’t end up going, and that’s OK, but what I realized was it wasn’t about the game itself, or creating the next Mia Hamm. It was simply about seeing what she would do and how she would interact with other kids her age. Besides the few minutes spent dropping her off and picking her up at daycare, we don’t really see our daughter playing with her little friends.
Last weekend took her to see the live version of Bubble Guppies, her favorite show. I didn’t expect her to sit through the whole show—she’s an active toddler. To be honest, we didn’t know if we’d make it through the first 10 minutes. She was fairly content, though, until the intermission. After that she didn’t want to sit anymore. No problem. I got to see her connect the dots, recognizing the songs and characters she sees on TV, even pointing out Bubble Puppy when he was on stage and the MC asked.
So no, I don’t have my daughter signed up for any regularly occurring activities, though I still want to take her to swim lessons, but at the end of the day, I really am a mom who does. I take my daughter to the park after work. Not every day, and sometimes only for 20 minutes. But it’s something. We’ve seen her go from hesitating to go down the slides and wanting one of us to accompany her to now going down the largest slide by herself. That happened because I’m a mom who does.
I’m a mom who gladly spends an evening dancing around the kitchen with my daughter after dinner, the sounds of pure happiness and infectious laughter erupting from her. Those moments erase my doubt and solidify in my mind that I am indeed a mom who does. It’s the little things that sometimes make the most impact and leave the biggest impression. Knowing and recognizing that has allowed me to stop making comparisons and to take this self-imposed pressure off of myself. I am a mom who does and will continue to be a mom who does.