It was a summer day with endless possibilities. Berry picking? Hiking? I gave Autumn choices, but she added her own.
“I stay home, at Bubble house.”
The first hundred times this scene occurred, I reasoned it was her temperament. Nothing wrong with not going out, and it’s universal knowledge that kids force us to slow down. But after a while, her tendency felt extreme and so, like a good mom, I began to worry. Is something wrong?
First, I blamed COVID. For eighteen months, her world was one house with three people and walks around the block. And then one day it wasn’t. It was her aunt and uncle and then cousins and neighbors. So many more humans and places. Parks and stores and school – oh my! Like when Dorothy landed in Oz and everything was more colorful, but also foreign and scary. Perhaps Autumn, too, was jolted by the landing.
Next I reasoned she’s a homebody because being in the world is hard. Kids push and splash, and rides home are unbearable. The poor child deals with me shouting If You’re Happy and You Know It in a desperate attempt to keep her awake because, well, naps. Who could blame her for not wanting to leave? Home is safer, kinder, and most of all, softer.
But all this thinking led to zero conclusions and even more confusion. Maybe she wasn’t the one with the problem. So I turned inward, and instead of wondering why she always wants to stay, I pondered my urgent need to go. Do I suffer from a chronic FOMO? Is society brainwashing me to believe the fun is out there instead of in here? And after a while, I realized something.
Staying put is what I’ve wanted all along, but for decades, I’ve conditioned myself to head out. It’s good for me to be among people, I told myself. At the annual Matzoh Ball on Christmas Eve, I never knew who I’d meet. Same goes for networking events and classes and parties – oh my! More places and more people meant more opportunities – for work and friends and relationships. But as I’d shower and get ready, trade in my sweats and slippers for hose and heels, I’d always have the same wish:
To have someone to stay home with.
My longing was finally granted when I got Tod, my goldendoodle. An ideal lounge buddy, he cuddled on the couch and let me pick the movie. Every time! But to no fault of his own, he couldn’t hold a conversation.
Enter Autumn. In two years she has grown from my sweet baby to my best friend. She is clever and compassionate, charismatic and creative. Sometimes in life, our prayers are answered, but differently than we expect, and so it takes time to recognize it. That, I figured, is what happened to me.
Now I lean into long mornings at Bubble. Today will not be the day when I’ll exchange digits with a hot, single dad or laugh with mom friends while our kids swing. Instead, it’ll be the one where Autumn and I will reek of dish soap after romping in our backyard bin of suds and gems. The one where I resurrect my guitar from the basement and play nothing accurately – with nails too long and memory too short – but nevertheless have an adoring fan. The day when I’ll sport a mismatched bikini because who knows where the corresponding parts are, and Minnie Mouse ears because Autumn wanted me to.
Old habits die hard. I still approach days with intention – a festival, then story time in the park – but I’ve become more realistic about the way our family functions. There’s an inverse relationship between how long we’re home in the morning and whether we end up leaving the house. The more time we have to blow chocolate milk bubbles or pretend to play hide-and-seek (because what two-year-old truly wants to hide from her mom and vice versa), the less likely we are to get in the car.
And that is more than okay.