This past weekend I had the pleasure of spending one on one time with a single child in my clan. It was a tiny glimpse into another life where I had one child. And that one child was easy and quiet. The kind of kid other people rave about and who puts together puzzles in an airport instead of running up and down the aisles of seats waiting to board. It was one of those fairytale moments this mom of three imagines during the chaos that determines my life. Perhaps in that afternoon, I did have one favourite child, my middle child, Audrey. Yes, the typically emotional firecracker turned into every parent’s dream child.
It all started when Mr. L, looking at the beautiful forecast for the weekend, casually asked if we should accept an invitation to his business partner’s newly purchased lake house. A beautiful home on the shores of Lake Simcoe. But alas, Audrey had jazz class and with an upcoming recital and could not afford to miss a class. There was also a playdate scheduled for Audrey and one of her little BFF’s to make-up a long ago almost forgotten birthday party that I have been trying to plan since February.
“Let’s just go after jazz class.” Mr. L says.
“Would love to, but it took me forever to find a date and the school year is almost done. Audrey has been looking forward to it for days. I can’t cancel.” I respond shaking my head, firm in my belief it is important to teach our children the importance of keeping their commitments.
“Ask Audrey.” He says. “I bet she would rather go up to the lake house.”
“No.” I respond annoyed. “I’m not putting that on her. She shouldn’t have to decide between a friend and family. She’s six.” Then inspiration hits, “Why don’t you just go up with Elizabeth and Jacob? They have nothing planned for the day. We’ll divide and conquer.”
He likes the idea and makes plans to go.
Saturday morning arrives. I help get them ready throwing bathing suits, life jackets and pyjamas in a knapsack for him to take. Audrey and I bid them goodbye and settle into the rest of our day.
I let Audrey know I have to do a few chores and then we can go for a bike ride together. She happily agrees and before I know it, she is reading, quiet as a mouse on our couch. Silence. There is no chattering, no kids running laps around our kitchen/dining room as I try to guide them to the backyard, no requests for never-ending snacks, no clicking of keys tapping on Mr. L’s iPad or ever-present blackberry. There is only pleasant and welcome silence. I check in with her,
“Are you okay honey?”
“Yep.” She buries her head back into her book.
The morning passes and miraculously I get most of my chores done stopping to check on Audrey who reads, plays with her toys or colours only asking once what she can do and agrees to help me dust while I crank up the radio.
We head out for a bike ride, racing around the neighbourhood enjoying the sunshine together. I can’t remember the last time I spent a whole day with such a pleasant child!
Lunch passes quickly as we head to Audrey’s jazz class, stop and get groceries before heading home. Typically I avoid grocery shopping with the older kids and definitely not with all three. But with just her and I, there is no child touching every single item in the grocery story or preschooler asking over and over when is he getting a snack. She helps me find our items and I drive back home finishing up a few chores, shower and take Jake the dog for a walk before her scheduled dinner/playdate with her friend.
Audrey is so relaxed, my lovely cherub-cheeked girl falls asleep on the couch while I’m showering This is a first for both of us. Me that I had an uninterrupted shower on a weekend and her having a nap during the day. I know she is her mother’s daughter, likes a good nap but I have only seen her actually have one when we’re on vacation and enforce mandatory afternoon rest time for the whole family.
The rest of the evening passes like a dream. Dinner out is manageable and without my attention divided between three of my own kids, I laugh and giggle as the two six-year olds try to drink their milkshakes out of curly straws. Afterwards, Audrey and her friend run around an empty indoor playground playing pirates and princesses.
I realize a few things throughout this luxurious day.
One. I am in danger of having a favourite child. At least for the moment. Audrey is so easy compared to the other two chattering squirrels when she is on her own. She basks in the one on one attention and it brings out her best qualities. She doesn’t ask a million questions. She is happy to go along with whatever I am doing. She is a champion cuddle-monkey and content to sit outside in silence together having a cup of juice and a snack. She is still. I have one of those kids I dream about. I just never realized it.
Remember, this is the girl (if you’ve read past posts) that has temper tantrums, has trouble keeping her temper, is emotional and in some ways I would classify as my most challenging child. She is also the one I’ve spent a lot of time talking to, explaining about words are better than actions, helping find calm down strategies. Do I dare and hope that my years of work with her have helped her in some way or that as some people said, age and time would help or perhaps a bit of both? It took a day on our own for me to realize how far she has come from the firecracker of unpredictable behaviour of only a year and a half ago.
Today, all of those things were non-existent. We had a pleasant day, one of those days where you realize you know parts of your child’s inner workings, but when you have three or more, you don’t get to see the breadth of their own unique little personalities until you get that one on one time. When her brother and sister are around, she feeds off their tendency towards hyperactivity and tries to keep up sometimes unable to control the roller coaster ride of emotional stimuli she is exposed.
Two. She is more like me than I imagined. Which means I know that a day off once in a while for her, where the house (her favourite environment) is quiet and still is nourishment for her soul. A day where she can nap on a couch without siblings crawling over her asking when do they get to play their iPads is as welcome to her as it is to me.
Third. To cherish this special time where her and I can simply be content in loving silence holding hands while we both look at the blue skies above enjoying the golden silence.