The first day of school was an absolute whirlwind. After the first day pictures, and buttoning my oldest two boys into their handsome first-day outfits and the school’s adorable tradition of the kindergarten “clap-in”, my youngest son and I sat quietly in the car together….alone.
With my middle son starting full-day kindergarten, my youngest, Lincoln, and I had the entire day to ourselves for the first time ever. I hadn’t had one-on-one time with a toddler since my first son was an only child over five years ago. We needed to find our new normal and implement a routine.
It wasn’t seamless. That first week, we both missed the big boys a lot. Lincoln wasn’t sure how to play alone and the house felt a little too quiet. We over-compensated and spent too much time going anywhere and everywhere and both felt overwhelmed. But as the weeks passed, we found what worked for us:
1. Join a Class
We both need a little bit of structure in our days so having a weekly commitment that we are obligated to get out of the house for is a must. Lincoln is a climber who is happiest balancing at the very top of a ridiculously high platform, so for us, this was MyGym. Library storytimes and music classes also check this box. Learning to function in a group, following directions, and seeing the same group of kids consistently are beneficial. Participating in an activity he loves is the added bonus.
2. Do Something for Them
This looks different every week with Lincoln’s ever-changing interests. Right now, he’s obsessed with trains so we have built epic train tracks and visited Barnes and Noble to play with their train table and find new books about trains. We are planning a trip to the Oklahoma Railway Museum for next week. When he was all about the turtles last month, we visited Martin Nature Park to see them in their natural habitat and PetSmart to get a closer view.
I am taking advantage of this time where his interests are simple and his questions fall within my knowledge base because I know all too soon, I will need to rely on Google to quell his curiosity. I am also appreciating this time where all it really takes to make his day feel special is to visit a new park or actually pull into Braum’s when he asks for ice cream as we drive past.
3. Do Something for You
With a toddler who is only barely verbal, I need adult interaction. I joined a MOPS group to talk to moms in the same life stage as me and to enjoy warm coffee while Lincoln plays with friends. I also joined the PTO at my older two sons’ school to stay involved and use some of my college skills even while I’m not employed. Now that I am used to doing things with three kids, I also like to use my time with only one child to run errands. Having only one kid with me almost feels like a vacation.
4. Leave Time for “Nothing”
Leaving days free was something I struggled with when I was home with only my oldest son. I felt like it was my responsibility to educate him, entertain him, and enrich his life with all of the experiences I could think of. Looking back on those days where it was only the two of us, the moments I miss the most are the ones where we watched three episodes of Mickey in a row, snuggled together in our pajamas, or where we waited for the thunder to stop and then ran out and played in the rain in our clothes.
I miss the moments of “nothing” and now I make sure to leave plenty of time to have those moments with my youngest. Some mornings we stay home and read literally all of the board books and start the same episode of Sesame Street over four times because he likes the beginning the best. I know the education and the enrichment are important, but I also know how sweet it is to let him roam from activity to activity, leaving a toddler tornado and having an absolute blast.
Now that the two older kids have been at school for almost two months, we have finally settled into a rhythm together. We are having a blast with our quality time together, but we are definitely the happiest when we’re all back together at the end of the day.