Tuesday 19 March 2024

Baby Island and Big Kid Town

There is something really magical that happens with getting settled into a school community, and this is a gift that I'm reminded of from a conversation with another parent today. 

For years, Dash was kind of the only kid around, unless we were hanging out with folks from our birth classes or preschool friends. We were really blessed to have a small preschool through COVID, which was a de facto pod and never had any outbreaks while we were there, thanks to the watchful eyes of the teachers and the care the three or so families involved were taking with regard to each other. However, small it was, and during that lockdown time our whole world was, too. 

But now, I find that we're spending more of our time with so many parents of Dash's school-age peers, and there's just this understanding. Sometimes, kids are not at their best. We can't actually control them, only guide them and get them out of situations that are clearly not working. And everyone is working on stuff, whether they are 6 or 45. 

It's just such a different vibe than being bold enough to take a kid into a mostly-adult setting, where there's more of a presumption that I can perfectly anticipate a little person's behavior at all times, or say the magic words to rein him in when he's not perfectly on track. There's a degree of relaxation that comes into things for both me as a parent and Dash as a kid, where his natural exploration of the world around him as well as the world within of social development happen with less pressure. 

This is different than any of the mommy-and-me groups, or other (very important and useful!) early socialization experiences. We have friends in the neighborhood in a way that we never have before, and many of them! There are accidental play dates that turn into dinners together, bumping into pals at weekend breakfasts out, getting the kiddos into other fun classes and simultaneously bemoaning the chaos we're unleashing on teachers by enrolling them along with buddies. 

Now, I am pregnant again. I had a lot of fear about getting marooned on Baby Island with the new little one, especially now that I’m enjoying having a bigger kid in school. So many moms get stuck with help only as a treat, and mostly doing the work of raising infants in daytime hours (and beyond) alone, and the days are often long and exhausting. That certainly was my first two years with Dash. I felt a visceral resistance to doing it again, and heartbreak at the loneliness to come. 

While I still don't know how the picture will look once we've got a fresh baby in tow, a lot of these families of Dash's peers are already stepping up in ways that make this journey feel different. They are already showing up to have him over when we have appointments, or standing ready with practical support as we need it, or even just expressing excitement about having a baby around again. 

This is just how it's supposed to be--we were never meant to raise our babies one-on-one, boxed away in houses and trying to fit babyhood in around the margins of an individualistic idea of adult life mostly in a workplace. We're social animals, and our kids in a pack teach each other so much, allowing more space for the adults to hear each other and work in tandem, too. For the moms still in the trenches with babies, toddlers, and even preschoolers--it truly can get better. Your world can grow along with your child. There is this magic that gets unlocked when we are suddenly spending more time in spaces that are built with regard to children, instead of merely accommodating them. 

Somehow, we have established a modern world that makes just existing with kids in public a constant gauntlet of ill-fitting environments that seem to assume we were all born adult. Thankfully, some of that falls away when we find ourselves working in community with folks that have similar needs and fresh ideas about where we can all go to enjoy the time we have with these small humans.

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