Wednesday, February 29, 2012

One Day, One Child

Before we had kids, we used to hang out with some friends of Jonathan's who had kids "early." And by early, I mean, much later than our own parents--but they were still in their Twenties. Not waiting until the last possible moment their bodies could do it, if you know what I mean. Like us. Pushing the biological limits.

Anyway, they had these two amazing girls (who continue to dazzle). We would borrow them and take pictures with us to try out what we might look like as parents. Kind of like looking at yourself in new clothes, with a new persona, you know?

Anyway, these two people were truly awesome parents, and we have tried to copy and steal parenting techniques from them all along, as we are continually about nine years behind them.

One tip they had was this: make sure that you always take time to have a day alone where each parent shares a day with only one child. A total one on one bonding experience.

Well, life hit and we lost track.

But last weekend I got a day like that. And I didn't do anything spectacular like go to Paris with one child, or sail to Catalina, or even visit the Jet Propulsion Lab with my tech-minded child. Instead it was a simple day, brought on by necessity.

Jonathan took Benji to a birthday party, and I took Theo for a swimming lesson, and the day.

Well, first, I am a fanatical swimming mama. It is the one place I am pushy and demanding. The boys, AND their instructors, know that I care. I intentionally always make Theo wear his red Coronado Roughwater Swim cap, instead of his red swim school cap. It is my message to the teachers: someone in his family is a good swimmer, and he will be, too.

So he swam. He was tested. He got moved up. I was proud.

And then we had our day.

I took him to Book Soup, the last great book store in Los Angeles. I showed him the kids section, and walked him through the adult stacks. There was a reading going on, and I told him what was happening. I showed him the list of upcoming readings--with authors and books listed, and told him you could come and hear. He scanned the list dutifully and said, surprised, "I have never heard of any of them, Mommy." Neither had I.

Then we went and bought art supplies for our upcoming trip. Sketch books for all of us, and pastels in metal containers small enough to carry in a purse or backpack. I want us to travel like 18th century pilgrims, drawing what we see as we move around the castles and green rolling hills of England.

Then I took him to Poquito Mas and we sat in the sunshine, he and I, and talked about a book I wanted him to read (The Apothecary, by Maile Meloy). We told stories, and nibbled each other's food, and I wondered if he would spend his whole life trying to get back to California so he could eat tacos in the spring sunshine.

Then we went home and we drew each other with the new pastels, and I read him a chapter of the Apothecary, and then we cuddled up and read together in bed. We rounded it all out with a game of chess, in which he beat me soundly.

It was a perfect day to spend with anyone. But especially with my boy. It felt different to be with one child, instead of two. To share my favorite things and places and foods with him, and to talk to him like a companion, instead a small sheep in a herd of two, who must be corraled like a wild thing as we move hither and yon through the world.

I thought of Greg and Chalon and how they had told us how special that one on one time could be.

Jonathan told me Theo felt calmer that night--at peace because for one day he did not have to fight for attention in our merry band of endless talkers--but could have me all to himself--and I, him.

I wouldn't trade two for the world, but for a day, one was fun.