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How I Spent My Summer Break

I can’t believe that summer’s already officially over. (Yes, I know it’s almost October, but I’ve been on vacation. Cut me some slack.) As we went into the season, Maddie was cruising like a pro but not yet walking unassisted. She was weeks away from her first birthday, still shy on the playground, and had never been left with anyone other than a family member.

I remember looking at the summer months stretching out before me and thinking of all I wanted to do with my daughter. I saw her birthday as some sort of milestone that would release us into this whole new world – one where she became comfortable hanging out with other kids, became weaned, and became more confident in herself. I wanted to find a way to move Maddie to the next step – socialization. 

As I thought about moving into our next phase of baby life, I came up with a few ideas for people interaction. First off, we’d hit the library and sign up for toddler Story Time. Maddie loves to read and would be around a bunch of kids kept on a short leash by their mommies.

Secondly, I wanted to sign up for a swim class for her at our YMCA. Having her feel comfortable in the water is something that’s pretty important to me, and I saw it again as a chance for her to interact with other kids on a managed level, as well as have some fun mommy or daddy time.

And finally, I wanted to get Maddie interacting with kids her age in an unstructured environment. Madeleine hadn’t really spent much time in the church nursery before the summer, and I was hoping she’d get more comfortable there. I was also looking to get her into some play dates with neighborhood kids. Truthfully, I was a bit concerned that Maddie’s life was too isolated: no scheduled interactions with other kids, no daycare, and a full-time mommy at home. I knew she was going to hit an age soon where she’d need to hang out with kids her own age and didn’t want it to intimidate her.

Much to my astonishment, Maddie and I have hit many of those touchstones, though not always in exactly the way I had anticipated.

First, the library. They refused to let Madeleine in. Claimed she wasn’t old enough; apparently 2 is the age minimum for story time, and with her small size there’s no way I could have passed her off for twice her age. As I watched all the 2-year-olds pay way less attention to the book than my daughter would have, I contemplated suing based on age discrimination. Stupid librarians.

So scratch the library off the list. Who needs it, anyway. Now we hit the library just for Mommy, and to see the librarians scratching their heads while Maddie gravely contemplates a theology tome – periodically turning the pages – as Mommy cruises the New Releases is almost satisfaction for her Toddler Time rejection.

As for the swim class, that got scrapped too, but this time for budgetary reasons. Instead, we took advantage of our YMCA membership and simply brought Maddie into the pool with us during family swim time. My girlie was all over the pool like white on rice (see previous blog) and we saved some bucks. And as the summer progressed, her love of water deepened and was indulged in even more, first with the rainbow sprinkler in the park, then with the tidepool  she got for her birthday, and finally with the kiddie pool we ended up buying mid-summer. All in all, baby girl was in the water in some form at least twice a day for no extra cash. With the added bonus of spending much of that water time with her new friends from the park!

Which leads me to part three of my Summer Plan. Without really working at it, the socialization simply happened. Maddie got braver at the park, Mommy got bored and struck up some conversations with other mommies, and before you know it Mommies were trading c-section stories while Maddie and Naomi were trading water balloons. We invited kids over to try out our new pool and – voila! – a play date  The whole thing sort of happened without my realizing it, and a hurdle was jumped I hadn’t even seen coming.

Being left by herself in the church nursery was the only thing we really had to work towards, and I can say it’s been a success though several weeks in the making. I know there will come a time when she’ll need to be left with a paid caregiver, and I’d rather that happen in a controlled environment – say, a date night after Maddie’s met and hung out with the babysitter – than in an emergency where we have no options and dump her scared face with a stranger. I look back at where she was in May, and peer at where she is now – happy, with friends at church and in the neighborhood, self-confident, outgoing, and addicted to water sports – and can’t believe how fast it happened. In fact the one milestone we haven’t yet reached is being weaned (though she dropped the morning one while on vacation, so we’re down to simply nursing at bedtime!), and I’ve made my peace with that.

So we’re entering a new season armed and ready. When cold weather threatens we’ll have plenty of friends to visit if the weather turns ugly. We’ll still be able to hit the YMCA and get her water fix, though we’ll have to dry off a bit more before heading back outside.

And honestly, I feel more confident as a mommy. I, too, can make friends, and my parenting skills can stand up to their scrutiny. I’m more confident in both interacting with my daughter and giving her a wider berth to make her own decision. Somehow, without spending any money or getting out the Palm Pilot, we’ve achieved a level of independence.

Bring it on, autumn. 


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