Sometimes the change you need comes in the form of a tiny hand.
One of my two-year-old's favorite things to ask now that he's learning to talk is, "Outside?" He will often bring us his shoes and ask, or hold up his hand and say, "Hand? Outside?" knowing he's not allowed to navigate the back stairs without holding a hand. When my husband is at work and I have Harrison asking to go outside while my 5-month-old, Jonathan, is fussy and crabby, my knee-jerk reaction has been to simply say No. I said No dozens of times. I didn't want to deal with putting his shoes on, finding my flip flops, getting a blanket and toy ready for the baby, and whatever else I'd decided was too much. It gave me anxiety just thinking about trying to get them both out of the house at the same time, even into our backyard. Then, one morning, the weather was gorgeous and he looked up at me from his high chair and said, "Outside?" For once I said, "Yeah, okay." I gathered up some things, tucked them under one arm, picked up the baby, and led the persistent toddler down the stairs, our whole parade preceded by the dog. Jonathan was perfectly happy outdoors lying on a blanket with a teething toy. Harrison ran back and forth in the grass, occasionally stopping to play with sidewalk chalk. The dog kept an eye on the neighborhood from the confines of our fence. And I, for the first time in awhile, relaxed.
The next day, it was hotter out and I decided we wouldn't go outside. It got up to 92 degrees or something ridiculous. The following morning, though, it started out cooler, so when he asked, "Outside?" I again agreed. The next day, my husband, Ryan, helped me set up the kiddie pool that hadn't seen any action since last summer. Harrison mostly used it as a basketball hoop with bonus splashing, but whatever. It's summer and there's a pool in my yard. Jonathan isn't a big fan of water, but I put his feeties in there anyhow. The next day we were busy, but that evening rolled around and Harrison asked us to go outside. I convinced Ryan that we should eat dinner outside and let Harrison run around. There was a breeze and the sun slowly started to set and we all had some laughs and a nice evening.
Over the past few weeks, I've taken the boys outside nearly every day. My friend Sarah and her son, Ronan, even joined us for a play date out there. Sometimes we go out in the morning, sometimes we go out in the evening, and sometimes we go both times. One evening, Harrison took the sidewalk chalk and started to color on our plastic patio table. I started to tell him No, then I looked at the old, stained table and thought, "Why not? It's an ugly table and the chalk will wash off next time it rains." So I smiled, sat down, and joined him. We colored the entire tabletop. Jonathan sat in an umbrella stroller nearby, chewing on a toy octopus and babbling at us. Harrison was so happy and now the phrase, "It's time to go inside," is no longer met with a tantrum: he just walks over to the door!
After weeks and weeks of telling him No about everything he wanted to do or started to get into, it felt good to start telling him Yes. He seems to realize we have an understanding. If I say we can't because it's raining or something, he's two, so he gets upset, but I try to find a compromise. I'm tired with the two kiddos to take care of, but I didn't want to miss out on summer. I finally feel like I'm not, and I have Harrison to thank.
Last night, I took the boys outside in response to a post-dinner request. I found a Pandora station that played Hawaiian music and the sweet notes floated across the yard. I was lying on the blanket in the grass next to Jonathan and watching Harrison color on the concrete. He started to groove to the music a little, so I stood up and picked him up to dance with him. He wanted me to spin him around and make him dizzy instead, so I did that first. Then I picked Jonathan up and slow danced with him to Iz's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." The breeze was beautiful, the neighborhood was quiet, and I knew I would remember this summer with my sweet boys for the rest of my life.
Now I'm looking forward to more opportunities to say Yes to my boys. I'm going to relax and try not to control so much (my new anxiety medication is certainly helping with that, but that's another blog post for another day). I'm going to enjoy the rest of the summer because, before you know it, we'll be busting out the winter gear. I'm so glad that my son is persistent. I'm glad that he loves being outside. I'm glad that he knows he can look at me, hold his hand out, and ask me for what he truly wants more than anything without thinking I'm just going to say No. We're building something here. I think I'm starting to get the hang of this motherhood thing.
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Tags: 2 year old, 5 month old, baby boys, backyard, celebrating summer, chicago summer, happiness, life, making memories, memories, motherhood, outside, parenthood, saying no, saying yes, sincere mommy, sons, special, summer, summer with kids, summertime, Tara Schile, toddler, two under two