One of the ways in which our slacker parenting style comes out is that we'd rather not do high stakes parties with all the preschool friends and outside friends complete with games and party favors and headaches. I'm sure if we were good parents we'd do this. I just can't drum up any enthusiasm for it at all.
What we did instead was an Adventure. Q has been asking to go to New York City for months. It's less than 2 hours away, so it seems like a reasonable request. But we don't have any real reason to go - other than his little heart's desire. So we planned out a day in New York City: Train, subway, Museum of Natural History, Central Park, back again. In some ways it feels so wasteful. There is so much you can do in the city that to keep to so small an itinerary seems a shame. But more than this would overwhelm all three of us.
So Sunday we left Noodle with Grandma and had an Adventure in the city.
All day long his delight warmed my heart. Entering Grand Central Station, he looked up, awed. "Wow. This is beautiful."
He seemed to enjoy the museum and the dinosaurs, but when you can't yet read much and your grasp on evolution is nonexistent, the museum has a hard time holding your attention. After two hours, he was begging to go to Central Park.
Park means something different to Q. Park means 'playground'. He loved climbing the huge rock we found almost immediately outside the museum, but it took us about twenty minutes of walking to get to the playscape.
On the way he waved to park employees in a small electric vehicle. I heard him say, "Hi!" and looked over to see he was greeting pigeons. We passed a long row of benches with people sitting and Q carefully looked in everyone's face. A bald, older black man stared right back at him, then twitched his eyebrows up and down rapidly, keeping his expression deadpan. Q showed no immediate reaction, but when I cracked up, the man twitched at me as well, a corner of his mouth curling up. Another man simply greeted Q, "Hey, how's it going?" and returned to his cell phone call.
It was totally worth the long walk. After running around the castle like structure for a while, we stripped him down to his underwear to run in the fountains.
It was a really lovely, long day.
Last night we had our birthday picnic. Noodle fell in the water while wading, reminding me that I should never leave home without spare diapers and clothes for her. The kids happily played in the water and sand.
I try to remember that I don't have to do it all perfectly. Q doesn't have to get a birthday party. He can have an Adventure and spend the day actually enjoying our attention all day, rather than our stress over hosting a fleet of preschoolers. It's fine to do it differently.
There is a recent study which determined that children under 2 who watch television get far less adult/child interaction and suffer from language deficits. I read this with pangs of guilt for my toddler, who, due to accident of birth, gets far more television than her older brother ever was exposed to. Look! I thought, she's going to be behind in - wait, language development? Never mind.
Sometimes it's hard to remember that the experts are not always talking to me. The teachers at Q's next school who told us that we should read to our kids and take them to the library, they don't know that I'm a librarian and that Q can sound out words.
They might be experts, but they're not experts on my kid.