In my naïve days, I envisioned my family traveling as a pack; a small little herd off to face our next adventure together. But with an eight year old, a six year old, and a two year old, I now realize that more often than not, we need to divide and conquer, particularly when it comes to schedules.
Tonight my oldest daughter took her grandmother to a Mother/Grandmother-Daughter/Granddaughter tea. My son was not thrilled to be left out, and jumped at the chance to head to the ball field to hit some balls with his Dad. He even got to run the bases twice!
That left me with our little one, who also felt left out. My little one, the one who is not so little anymore. The one whose birth calmed my spirit and soothed my heart as the chaos of three children spread throughout my life. I spend every day with my baby. As a stay-at-home mom I am rarely without her by my side.
But tonight, we did something just special enough. Something we've never done before...a rare treat when her life is so often dictated by, and wrapped up tightly in, the lives of her older siblings. I took her to get an ice cream. After dinner. And it was our secret. And she was so excited about our secret that she told everyone. She announced it to Grammy, to Daddy, to her brother and sister. And she loved every second of it. The anticipation!
After a husband and three children, I have finally found my live-in ice cream buddy. I love to go get ice cream. Any time of day, any day of the week (May through September that is)! And now I have a buddy. And I love it.
Of course, getting ice cream, just the two of us, after dinner, was pretty cool. But even cooler than the whole ice cream with rainbow sprinkles bit, was the fact that she got to eat it in the front seat of the van. Unbuckled. My little spitfire thought that was the cat's meow. She was floored when I told her she could crawl up to the front with me. Still unsure of what she'd heard, she asked in her heart-melting voice "my come up with you and be not buckled?" two or three times before she gingerly crossed the threshold to the front. She sat carefully, hunched over her dish of ice cream, methodically picking spilled sprinkles off of the seat.
And then, after the first few bites, she lifted her head and looked around. She relaxed. She noticed that I had rolled the window down all the way and then the fun really began. Her head went out the window. Her little face pressed as close to the mirror as possible. She spotted customers with take-out bags. She spotted flowers. And traffic. And a pigeon.
Now, of course, this isn't her first time out of the house. She runs errands with me on a daily basis...and does so with astute observation. She's a champion side-kick. A compliant school volunteer, an enthusiastic baseball and softball cheerleader, an efficient errand runner. And if we miss our daily run to Dunkin' Donuts, or our bi-weekly trek to Target, she becomes concerned. She feels her world slightly off balance. She's also accustomed to sitting in the front seat of the van. We do so four out of the five days in a school week. Waiting for the bus. Waiting for the bus to pick up, and more importantly waiting for the bus to drop off.
But clearly this time was different. For her and for me. She had my full attention. I wasn't checking the time, or email, or text messaging. I wasn't worried that we'd missed the bus. I wasn't worried about post school day moods. I wasn't preoccupied with amounts of homework and reading logs and spelling words. We weren't sitting at the end of our mundane street.
We sat facing each other, cross legged. I let my ice cream melt as I focused all of my attention on her adorable little body enjoying every morsel of her ice cream, enjoying every moment of our special date. Forty-two minutes and just under six dollars is all it took. And I hope she doesn't soon forget how much I was there with her.
I need to do this with her more often. She basked in the sunshine of my full attention. And yet she was so happy to crash her brother's base running and ball hitting extravaganza instead of going straight home. She was content to be back with the rest of the pack.
Even a two and a half year old needs to experience a fun hiccup in the routine every once in a while.