It’s 6:30 pm. We should be getting ready for bed. The routine takes about an hour, no matter how I try to rush it. I vaguely remember when I used to make plans that only just started at 8:30 pm.
Toddlers thrive on routine. And they can sniff out parent weakness like a seasoned salesperson closing the big deal. When Henry (age 5) suggested a detour to the beach because it had been a rough day, I paused a moment too long.
We had already been to the playground to chase the triplets around enough to tire them out before bed (a strategy that really does not get enough good press). We had already had our nighttime snack. I really was risking the window of falling asleep if we took this detour. I did it anyway.
I did it because when we are navigating rough waters, sometimes we need the deep respite that comes along with spontaneous fun more than we need to stay on schedule.
At the beach, I listened for clues of how they are handling the additional stress on our lives. I heard George (age 3) telling the little toy whale to swim away from the seaweed “fast, fast, fast, or else you will have to eat it because you got too slow when you were sick.” I have to agree with him about the gross factor of the “healthy” green smoothies that have been showing up at our house.
I watched Alexandra (age 3) as she seriously studied the caws and squats of the nearby seagulls. When I told her they were Laughing Gulls, she looked at me with raised eyebrows and said, “These birds are not laughing. They are crying. Maybe their Mama is sick, too.”
And when Victoria (age 3) asked me if she could get wet, and I said only her feet, she stomped her feet in the water so hard that she got wet anyway. Then she almost started to cry until she saw that I was laughing, and she began to dance in the water. The others all joined her dancing and singing and splashing and, if even for only those few moments, we all forgot what we were supposed to be doing while instead immersed ourselves in this serendipitous detour.