This past week I tried something new as a mother—scheduling dates with my toddler. This may seem silly or redundant since we’re together so often, and quite literally attached. She’s wrapped around my legs in the restroom; she’s pulling out the dishes I just stuck in the dishwasher. Her fingers splay across my cheek while we sleep beside each other. We’re the epitome of attachment parenting.
But, here’s the catch: she’s attached to me, and therefore to my adult existence. My daily routine consists of bills and writing and scraping up the messes left by this tiny human and her furry siblings—and she is glued to this daily ride. But it’s my ride, my to-do list. What about her day? Sure, her basic needs are met—I mean, we even have two lunches now!—but childhood isn’t simply built on bare sustenance and survival. It’s supposed to be built on magic and discovery and the pure awe that only exists during this fleeting stage of life.
That’s why I started scheduling us dates. The goal is one date for each day that I’m home—that’s a minimum of four dates per week. This last week we successfully had three. There was the park, where we marveled at fuzzy ducklings, squealed on the swing, and smeared dirt and sawdust all over ourselves and the metal slide. She giggled until she could barely breathe. The second date was a local indoor playground. I cheered when she slid down the plastic slide without my help. She befriended other minis. Our third date happened without ever leaving the house. We played with buckets of blocks and wooden puzzles and read her favorite stories without hesitation. And I ignored the dishes, the litterbox, the paragraphs I wanted (needed) to write. This was her time. Her childhood.
Baby dates don’t need to be extravagant events, they just have to be focused on the child. This means dedicating an hour or two to something that they will enjoy, like the simple act of playing with toys. Sometimes it’s easier to go elsewhere, to get out of the home and office to truly separate from adult responsibilities. Parks are a perfect setting for a baby date--no computer or vacuum cleaners there! During these dates, put away that phone. Because they are baby dates. They aren't simply a new interpretation of distractions for efficiently completing an adult’s to-do list; you know what I mean—the colorful pile of toys that you hope will occupy your child so you can get just a few more tasks accomplished. Those aren't baby dates.
It’s a relief to push away adult anxiety and relish life through the eyes of a small child—and not just for her. Here’s a secret: parents benefit from these dates, too. Everyone thrives off play and laughter and a brief abandonment of the mundane. After our dates, I come back to adult life with a vigor I’d stifled with stress. I’m more creative, energized, and thankful for what I have. And, my daughter? She’s smiling, relaxed, and more likely to let me distract her so I can get stuff done.
Take that little one’s childhood off the back burner. Replace it with all that other adult stuff that can wait for an hour or two.