Thursday, December 6, 2007

Go play

One night after Ladybug had gone to bed a few weeks ago, I sat down with a year-old parenting magazine that I never had time to read and started flipping through the pages. One article caught my eye, not because it was particularly relevant to my life but because it started with the sentence “I sit and read while my toddler daughter plays quietly with her toys.”

The idea of a two-year-old amusing herself was incomprehensible to me. I put the magazine on my lap and thought about it for a minute. Was there anything I could do without Ladybug trailing me, calling me or barging in on me? No. How often is Ladybug preoccupied – alone – with her toys? Rarely. And the opportunity for me to sit down with a book while she’s awake? Nonexistent.

I longed to be able to read in natural light, not some dim overhead lamp, nodding off every few pages. What was the writer’s secret? What was I doing wrong that I couldn’t accomplish this feat? We’ll never know. That wasn’t the topic of the article, just an opening scene setter.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love Ladybug’s company, the spontaneous hugs, the way she picks up dust bunnies with cries of “dirty!” and drags me to the trashcan. But sometimes I just need a few minutes of downtime to re-energize. That’s part of the reason I pulled out the dollhouse we had intended as one of her Christmas gifts. Yeah, I couldn’t wait to give it to her but I also hoped it would entice her to play by herself.

The dollhouse has provided brief spurts of self-play – not long enough for me to read a chapter – but it’s introduced her to the idea that she doesn’t need Mommy or Daddy all the time to keep her occupied. Every once in a while, she disappears into her nursery, where I’ll hear the sounds of her xylophone or a box of wooden blocks being emptied. When she recently started asking for her books, which I had put on the top shelf of her dresser during her page-eating days, I re-arranged her toys and put the stories within her reach.

Here lately, Ladybug has been very content to turn on her Beethoven CD, hop in her rocking chair and “read.” So we’ve been making our trips to the library more frequent and on our last one, I felt encouraged enough by Ladybug’s progress to borrow a book for me. I got “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott but it wasn’t exactly my choice.

It’s just that I didn’t get past the “A” section before Ladybug decided she needed me again.


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