Taking Time for Curiosity

We live in Chicago.  Its cold in Chicago in February.  Yet, I allow my 2-year-old to venture outside to go to and from our car in a light weight (pink!) raincoat, short (animal print!) capri pants and a miniature (polka dot!) baseball hat.  Partly because I subscribe to the natural consequences theory, but mostly because she’s the third child and we have places to be….in fact, we have many places to be throughout the day due to the busy schedules of her older brother and sister.  And frankly, there’s not a lot of time to negotiate with a toddler.

When her big brother was her age, we had the luxury of time and choice.  I often comment on what a handful my 2-year-old is as I chase her up and down and all around the sidelines of one of her siblings’ practices.  But then I remind myself that when her siblings were her age, I wouldn’t choose to leave the house after 4:00 pm.  Not during the witching hour!  Why would I bundle up a toddler and take him or her outside on those cold, dark evenings?  On the rare occasion that I did venture out at that time the activity would have been focused on something that was meant for them, not something as utterly un-toddler friendly as the sidelines of a dance class or basketball game where the little one is expected to simply watch, but not participate.

Not only is my 2-year-old dragged out of the house in the evenings for her sibling’s activities, I wake her up from her nap at precisely 2:50pm every single weekday so we can pick her brother up from school.  No time to ease back into the warm and cozy day….pulled right from the crib to the car seat or stroller depending on the weather.

That’s all ok.  I feel a little badly about it, but I know it’s the reality of birth order and the reality of the finely choreographed schedule that our family of five keeps.  I sincerely take all of our needs into account when booking activities for any member of our family to ensure that we run as smoothly, and peacefully as possible.  Keeping us just booked enough to participate in activities we all enjoy, but not so overbooked that we are all exhausted and grouchy.  Its taken some practice and quite a bit of fine-tuning, and we’re mostly there…yet still, my 2-year-old is often leaving the house in the attire and manor described above because as I said before, we have places to be.  Places to be, now!

Racing out the door, moving in auto-pilot mode, I grab my coat, wallet, keys, phone….and child.  Just another thing to move, to transport from point A (our backdoor) to point B (our car).

“Mama, I walk,”  the 2-year-old clad in mix-matched prints says.

“Oh Vivi, come on,” I try to convince (thinking:  “No way, little lady!  Its just easier if I carry you.”)

“Mama, I walk,” she gives a firm, and adorable, expression.

“Ok, ok, let’s go then,” I give a sarcastic smile (thinking: “Lets just hurry, come on, come on!’)

“Mama, I walk,” she repeats

“Yes, Vivi walks,”  I reassure (thinking: “Yes, I know…we just talked about that”)

She runs ahead 5 feet, then back tracks 7 feet…turns and giggles, then runs ahead again and reminds, “I walk, Mama”.

“Vivi, come on…aren’t you cold?” I say getting a bit more firm (thinking:  “I’m cold!  You must be cold in that light weight coat you insisted on wearing.”)

With that she falls to the ground and fakes a cry.

“I cry, I cry,”  She declares.  Followed by a request, “hug, hug?”

“Ahh, honey, here’s a hug,” I offer outstretched arms (thinking:  “I-yi-yi!  But hey, here’s my chance to swoop her up and carry her the rest of the way!”)  And I start to do just that.

“NO!  Mama, I walk,” she screams as her legs swing wildly.  I place her down again.

“Ok, you’re a big girl.  You walk,”  I surrender (thinking:  “Victory for Vivi.  Whatever you want, lets just get going.”)

“Mama, I walk,”  she giggles and takes off in a trot.  Abruptly stopping, she points down to the ground, “Mama, what that?” she says and puts on an exaggerated puzzled look and her palms to the sky.

“That’s a leaf,” I answer (thinking:  “Darn it! I saw that leaf on the sidewalk this morning, I should have known to remove it before she saw it.”)

“A leaf?  I touch?”  she asks.

“Yes, you can touch it…its a leaf.  It grows on trees,”  I explain (thinking:  “She doesn’t yet have the context for a leaf in her little mind.”)

“A leaf?”  she picks it up and studies it, turns it around and repeats, “A leaf on ground, not on tree?”

“Ahh, yes, Vivi…this leaf is on the ground.  It fell from the tree.  Tree said bye-bye to the leaf,”  I explain some more (thinking:  “How do I explain the life cycle of a leaf to a toddler?”)

“Tree say bye-bye to leaf?”  she seeks more information.

“Yes, in the fall, after summer….a leaf falls off the tree and lands right here on our sidewalk,” I elaborate (thinking:  “Keep it simple.  Remember this is all new to her, as it once was to the other kids.”)  Its hard to imagine a time when my third-grade son didn’t know this since he can now explain photosynthesis better than I can.

Before I’ve decided where to take our science lesson/conversation, she drops the leaf to the ground and says, “bye-bye leaf”.  With that we’ve moved on.

“Bye-bye leaf,” I repeat (thinking:  “bye bye leaf.”)

“Mama, I walk!”  she circles back.

“yes, Vivi walks,” I echo (thinking:  “yes, Vivi walks…and Vivi explores….and Vivi learns…and Vivi grows her mind and curiosity and sense of wonderment”)

And suddenly I’ve forgotten about what a hurry we are in.  It would have been so easy to just pick her up, despite her protests and carry her to the car hollering and screaming the whole way.  Instead, she walked to the car, chatting and learning the whole way.  And for that, its ok if we are just a bit tardy for one of those many places we need to be.

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4 Comments on Taking Time for Curiosity

  1. The Huntress
    February 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    beautiful and I just read your story in the Huffington Post online…wow…you two are an amazing couple with an amazing family…thank you for sharing your story.

    • Carissa
      March 15, 2013 at 7:42 am

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to send this!

  2. j.g
    February 16, 2013 at 1:00 am

    a friend shared your story with me and I couldnt comment on the site and I really wanted to. I lost my daughter a day befo. my due date in august. I was completely alone my whole pregnancy and I grieve alone. I was prepared to be a single mom. I cried hearing how amazing of a bond that created with your husband. I envy you and am so honored to have heard your beautiful love story. ♥

  3. Carissa
    February 16, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    J.G. Thanks for reading, for taking the time to reach out and for introducing me to your daughter’s story. While no one else can truly understand what you are experiencing, please know that there are others who do grieve for your daughter…including me now. My heart breaks for you, and for her… and for the world on missing out on this little girl. While your daughter is not in your arms, it does not change the fact that you are indeed a mother, and an amazingly strong mother at that! Thanks again for reading.


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