My days start around 6am in quarantine – normally they would start at 4:45am, but things haven’t been normal for weeks now. Elias wakes up shortly thereafter and from the moment his little eyes are open, he is ready to go. He has my early bird tendencies with his dads’ notorious high energy and talent for fun.
As soon as I walk in to his room, he jumps up, says “bounce” and begins to jump all around in his crib. Then we usually progress to throwing every single one of his stuffed animals out of his crib – but not before he hugs every single one of them and says “aw, cute”. Then we feed the fish his “little poops” – I mean, I guess beta pellets do sort of look like really tiny poops – and head for the stairs. “Mommy sooks” (mommy scoot) is all the warning I have before he flops onto his butt and proceeds to scoot step by step all the way down the stairs. Of course, if I don’t immediately also drop to my butt, I RELENTLESSLY hear “mommy sooks” until I oblige. Ten minutes of being awake and we are already well on our way to a very busy day. Even in quarantine.
Elias is pretty high energy. We spend a lot of time “going fast” (running from the deck door into the kitchen and back again – a grand total of maybe 20 feet) and “shooting hoops” (throwing the basketball into his miniature shopping cart) ALL day, EVERY day. He loves to shoot his Nerf guns, pass anything that looks like a ball (Lindor truffles included) and jump all over the couch. And did I mention he LOVES to roughhouse. He is all boy, full of it and loves to make sure you know it. 😉
Being a stay at home mom before the lockdown has given me an edge to quarantining with a toddler. Taking into account Elias’ was just beginning to reach the stage where testing his independence was in full swing and that I had already had the discussion with my husband about needing a few hours on the weekends to be able to go and do things without Elias, we were already beginning to adjust to our own sense of “toddler quarantine”. (Toddler Quarantine: that stage in life where sometimes it’s just easier for everyone if you limit trips to stores and restaurants because your toddler is just a time bomb. 😉 )
At the same time, there is a HUGE difference to voluntarily being under a modified quarantine and being under a regulated stay at home order. We used to be able to take Elias to the park so he could play and get some energy out, I would take him out to the store with me (shopping can be quite entertaining for/with a toddler), we were always having people over and going to other peoples’ homes where he/we could interact with other people (Elias just LOVES other kids), Jeremy would watch Elias so I could go have mommy shopping time sans toddler and we would frequently go on date night while our parents babysat. It’s a very different kind of quarantine when all those outlets vanish overnight.
Especially with a toddler that is very aware that something is different, but doesn’t understand what’s going on and why. He can’t just pick up the phone and call his family, or hop on a video game and connect with friends. He can’t go with me to the store and have those learning experiences with me right now or go to grandmas’ and interact with his cousins right now. And Jeremy and I get no break from the constant demands of a developing toddler.
So how are we staying sane quarantined in a townhouse with a very active toddler?
First, we split time. Jeremy takes him while I workout and do things around the house and then I step in so Jeremy can workout and work on his stuff. Elias is actually much better behaved when only one of us is around – too much stimulation or playing mommy and daddy off each other, I guess. We do still have A LOT of family time together and it can sometimes be a challenge to fill it.
Very early on we realized that there was absolutely no way to keep Elias inside the townhouse through quarantine. Although Jeremy and I could spend all day every day home and be perfectly content, Elias cannot. We take him to our local elementary school every day that the weather permits and let him loose. We don’t allow him to play on the playground (just because I don’t know who else has played on it), but there’s basketball hoops, a track and, of course, the field. We take chalk, bubbles and the basketballs and just let him do whatever he feels like doing. We’re usually there about an hour before he’s tired himself out and it’s a win win – he gets some energy out and we get a little fresh air.
CRAFTS + ACTIVITIES
I am so thankful that I do not throw out extra craft supplies. I have been able to do so many random crafts at the drop of a hat because I keep a stash. We’ve done handprint crafts (flowers and sheep), we’ve done paper daffodils and tissue paper stained glass and we have done A LOT of good, old fashioned coloring. We’ve even done some play snow and he really loved that even though he has an aversion to weird textures or stuff being on his hands.
Grill me if you want, I truly don’t care. We absolutely allow and encourage screen time. Elias is extremely into kids’ shows and is even spending some time watching basketball trick shot videos. His favorite kid shows include Blippi and Mother Goose Club and he LOVES watching the house sports series Andy Schrock does with his son. I know people have mixed feelings about screen time and how it affects kids but Elias learns SO much from watching videos – it’s incredible. He actually went in my craft closet, picked up a bottle of Elmer’s glue and immediately said “glue, sticky”. We have done a craft with that bottle of glue ONCE but I’m 100% sure he remembers it because of Blippi. He is constantly pointing out excavators, bulldozers and backhoes – he knows the difference, correctly identifies them AND can point out and name the different parts (boom, bucket, engine, cab, etc) – and he recognizes skateboards (neither of us skate nor do we know anyone who does), can correctly identify different balls (soccer, basketball, bouncy) and is starting to sing us songs that he’s learned.
Most children are interested in what other people are doing. I spending A LOT of time in the kitchen so it’s only natural for Elias to want to know what I’m doing and help me do it. He loves to sit on his stool and help me use the mixer, put ingredients into a bowl or stir what’s in the skillet. He’s very quickly learned when and where to stand away from the oven when I open it and is very thorough in making sure I know that when the stove is red it’s hot. 😉 I love that he is taking an interest in something that I enjoy doing – even if it only means that he will be able to cook for himself one day.
Raising an independent child is a bittersweet thing for me. I truly LOVE being a mom and doing all the mom things – changing diapers, giving baths, carrying babies around and basically doing everything. 😉 But I also recognize that I need time to get household things done and also time for myself. From very early on, we fostered independence. We didn’t rock him to sleep (unless he was having a particularly hard time going down), we didn’t carry him nonstop, we let him learn the hard way (sometimes and only in safe ways!), we made sure he was able to play independently just as happily as playing with us and we still encouraging doing things himself or helping us do something that we “can’t” do on our own and we praise hardcore when he accomplishes it. He is not even two yet and we are already reaping the rewards of our hard work
He has gone to sleep on his own without major issue for as long as I can remember – he started sleeping through the night at two months! But a lot of his sleep habits come from the ones we instilled: we didn’t rock him to sleep, we didn’t wait until he was asleep to put him in bed and we keep a strict nighttime routine and time. We never had to do sleep training at all and we’ve never had to fight him to get him to bed. My sister, on the other hand, always rocked her son to sleep and was VERY lax about a consistent bed time. At three and a half, she STILL fights him almost every night for an hour or more at bed time. (Love you, if you’re reading this! 😉 )
He is also great at playing on his own which has turned out to be a sanity saver during quarantine. We are able to be together as a family unit but still do our own things when we all need a break from each other. It’s great when he can be entertaining himself, Jeremy can be playing a game or relaxing and I can be cleaning or cooking without having to constantly be on top of him.
Finally, letting him be independent has given him so much confidence. He knows that he can explore and grow without us having to be right next to him. He is realizing that he has preferences and opinions and control and it’s just so amazing to watch them develop. It really is this uncensored exploration and development that I LOVE about children. Have I mentioned that I really love the idea of unschooling? 100% honest.
Truly, we have such a blessed situation during a time when so many others do not. We are quarantined with the most amazing, active and funny little guy that make our days so happy. Jeremy hasn’t lost his job or been furloughed. We’re all healthy and just taking it one day at a time. My heart has been heavy but Elias reminds me to be thankful, to love deeply and that “happiness can be found in even the darkest of times if only one remembers to turn on the light”.