It struck me (not for the first time, fittingly) this weekend that parenting can seem like reliving the same day. Karen’s granddaughter stayed over, so I was reminded of those early years: This sweet little girl just wanted to watch the same movie and read the same book, over and over.
When my kids were small, I must have attempted to take them through hundreds of children’s books. They also amassed a large selection of DVDs. As much as I loved story time, it was a bit confusing when one of the kids would ask for one specific book and then ask me to reread it three times in a row. It didn’t matter which alternatives were on offer, for that period, it could ONLY be THAT book. Same with DVDs.
The problem with that is I couldn’t skip pages. They’d be watching me like hawks to make sure I tried to reproduce the same funny voices every time. As for the movies, I could probably recite more of the lines in Ratatouille than I can from my favourite movie, The Godfather.
This fixated, obsessive behaviour extends to food. I can’t be the only parent whose child has insisted on eating only tomato sauce on bread for a year, surely? Or clothes; a wardrobe full of clothing, and, to a toddler, this selection boils down to one pair of increasingly threadbare trousers and a shirt that starts to get very grubby, probably from the tomato sauce.
But having a toddler in the house this weekend reminded me of how quickly children disown these favourites. Suddenly, it’s “what tomato sauce?” and on to new movies or books. My kids are only a few years older, but they've adopted (questionable) tastes of their own.
There’s comfort in routine. Knowing that what you’ll be eating, watching or wearing is not going to have any nasty surprises. That’s how I realised that I can get into routines of my own. Same coffee, breakfast, lunch, clothing, entertainment every day.
When that happens, it’s time to parent myself. No more stomping my feet and insisting on a predictable bedtime or lazy Friday mealtime, but the comfort of routine also offer the thrill of spontaneity. Time to go out, be silly; do something totally off-schedule. The out-of-the-ordinary things we do are far more memorable.
That reminds me. It’s Father’s Day, soon. My 14th. I quite like the idea of turning it on its head. Instead of sitting passively and expecting my kids to fuss for the ubiquitous four minutes of celebration, I’d like to celebrate being their father. The forgotten years of ONE TEDDY ONLY and JUST TOMATO SAUCE. We can pay homage to those obsessive toddler years by playing like toddlers, making a huge mess and then tidying it up again. Again, daddy, again!
Just don’t make me repeat the Barney Years. Shudder…
You can keep those.
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