Saturday, November 1, 2014

One day to get it right

My daughter, El, is almost 15 months old.  Since she was born, my husband and I rarely embark on family field trips.  Our family time is typically spent on the home front.  However, the couple of times we organized a family outing, there was an underlying sense of urgency to have a tremendous amount of fun.  One-day only events seem to carry their own unique stressors. 

Why? Well...

  1. We paid a significant amount of money to be there and share a unique experience so it better damn well be magical!  
  2. If the outing doesn't go smoothly then we may never leave the house again.
  3. Where are the bathrooms? Where do we park? Where's a map?  Where are do we eat? 
  4.  It's too easy to tune into the anxiety of other stressed-out parents and then silently judge them. 

It was the weekend of my birthday and a perfect autumn day.  I requested that we visit a local arboretum. I have visited the arboretum pre-baby and remembered the Children's Garden.  I imagined El crawling around the paths, climbing the stone stairs, splashing in water and freely exploring in nature as we observed with delight.  

After navigating the first stressor (see #3), we found the cafe, waited in a too-long of line for food, discovered that the tables with the perfect views were taken and then settled for just a nice view instead. 

We then headed straight for the Children's Garden.  El leaned over to be let down.  She began to crawl around near the entrance. People were filtering in, saying "Hi" to El and making comments like, "Watch out for that baby!"  We moved her to another location. The same thing happened. A parent said just loud enough for us to hear, "Someone is going to step on that baby."  

Determined to defy the norm and make this world a more baby-conscience place, I allowed her to continue to crawl wherever she pleased as I hovered closely over her for protection. My husband trailed behind grumbling about the crowds.  

Are we having fun yet? 

As I was being judged by other parents for allowing El to crawl around in precarious conditions, my inner critic was alive and well as I noticed parents pulling their children from one feature to another, downgrading their interests, and threatening them if they disobeyed. (See # 1, and #4). 

We were all a bunch of parents trying so hard to do it right and somehow getting it all wrong.  

My husband finally convinced me to leave the Children's Garden to sit under some trees.  I thought, while we were here, I'd capture some shots of El playing in nature.  As I got into position to shoot, my husband lifted her up onto his lap for a snack.  I crtictized, "I was just about to take a picture of her playing in nature!"  Then it dawned on me.  I had our experience mapped out before we even arrived.   

Outside of the bustling Children's Garden, we relaxed and noticed a stunning yellow tree. We decided to sit under it.  El began passing yellow leaves back and forth and tearing them into tiny, glowing pieces. Every so often she'd throw her head and both arms upwards.   

My husband picked her up so she could reach into the yellow mass of leaves and branches.  Her eyes bright and mouth grinning, all because of an up close encounter with an autumn tree.  

When I stopped chasing the illusive idyllic day in search of happiness, I looked to my family. And without fail, they helped me understand that the perfect day, is any day that we share together.   

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