As we venture into April showers territory, I am ever searching for new and creative ways to entertain LGO. Recently, we have subtracted the morning nap from his daily equation. As a result he is currently in that limbo where one daytime sleep is not quite enough, but two is too many. So without the morning nap in situ the days feel longer for both of us. Don't get me wrong, I adore his company, and his antics provide endless amusement. (You should see him dance; I can't even blame Mr Green for that one!). BUT -- there it is, the three-letter deflator -- it's tiring watching him tear around the living room like a Tasmanian Devil. At the same time, his naps were my saving grace. Now I'm struggling with fewer hours to Get Everything Done. I'm sure others out there felt the sting of the two-to-one nap. How did you make the transition? And do you have any timesaving tips for Little Green Mom? Inquiring minds want to know...
Of course there is no such thing as Motherhood: the Manual. Or Parenthood for Dummies for that matter. (Wait, on second thought, better check Amazon... If there is, I'm pre-ordering my copy.) But for a Type A like me it's been a long haul trying to play the part of a Beta. I'm getting better at dealing with life's constant greys. Sure, it's pitiful keeping him up all morning long when he rests his head on my shoulder and sticks his thumb in his mouth, i.e. LGO speak for, 'Listen up, woman. What does a toddler have to do to get a nap around here?' But at this point giving in to two naps, as tempting as it may be in the short term, means a middle of the night blitzkrieg in the crib.
So, with the grey, wet days upon us, I have been on the prowl for affordable toddler activities. There is always the library, and LGO's love of books hasn't diminished in the slightest since my last post. We are spoiled by the sheer number of parks around here, and LGO is partial to a swing ride. More good free, if not always clean, fun. A shout out to the Early Learning Years and to my local community centre which runs a drop-in programme. For a measly $30 annual membership LGO can play in a nice, contained and carpeted space with an array of toys that are both clean and functional, which is more than I can say about other facilities. Not long ago I signed him up for a 10-week programme through Toronto's Parks and Rec, envisioning a similar setup to the community centre. It was less expensive than some privately run programmes. Unfortunately, the programme was a total disappointment. No fewer than 35 tots ranging from one to five years old were registered. I don't know if you've ever been in a space with 35 one to fives, but take it from me it's nothing short of Armageddon. There is such disparity in the development and behaviour between the ages of 1-5 that if the council wasn't obviously just maxing out numbers for the sake of dollars, they would have had sense enough to split the sessions into two age groups: 1-2 and 3-5. But that is just my opinion, of course. The programme consisted of 90% free play, 5% craft (utterly wasted on 1-2 year olds) and 5% circle songs. The toys on offer were not only filthy, many were busted, and I never came across a single one that had batteries! Needless to say, LGO won't be going back. And as Mr Green is wont to say, You get what you pay for. At least he's not wont to say, I told you so.
Now, LGO, like many of his kinder contemporaries, is a bit of a music nut. Together, Mr Green and I own over 500 CDs, so there is always some kind of music playing in the Green home. We have previously tried out Rainbow Songs, which offers music classes to the under-4 set. Founder Mike Whitla's methodology "comes from the belief that there is interconnectedness between music, movement and language that support each other through the learning process". The songs are taught with real guitars by real musicians with real credentials. But best of all (because kids clearly don't care a jot about credentials) the classes are fun. The songs are catchy, and when I sing them at home with LGO he starts to do the gestures. He dances. It's a holistic way of learning and although such programmes tend to get all deep and cerebral about the benefits of musical training at a tender age, to me, as a parent, any learning is simply a bonus and a byproduct. I am far more interested in fostering in LGO a love of music that will feed his soul and last him a lifetime. Only problem: the cost is prohibitive. Since we attended last summer, RS's popularity must have shot up in line with their prices. And maybe I'm just being tight, but we personally can't justify spending that kind of money for a weekly 45-minute jam session when LGO and I can jam to the same songs -- on CD -- at home. Moreover, RS has a concert coming up, and as much as I would love for LGO to go and get the 'live experience', I nearly choked at the $25 ticket price. That's $75 for the three of us (see, I can add). It is a charitable event. But still. No matter how much I love an artist, if I feel they are charging too much for a gig I simply don't go on principle.
To be clear, I'm not just picking on RS. They are one of a myriad kinder music classes out there cashing in. We used to attend Gymboree, too, another $80-something a month for a bit of singsong led by some keen minimum wage student. Some bigwig piggy in a starched white shirt obviously spied a niche market among middle class mommies so desperate to get out the house, and equally desperate to make sure little Johnny keeps up with the other little Joneses, that they swallow the ludicrous fees. Let it be LGO's first lesson in capitalism. Ca-ching!
It may have taken lots of sweaty research, but there are alternative ways to entertain babes and toddlers without breaking the piggy bank. LGO is hardly lacking in stimulation or play dates. And we have met lots of nice people in the process. When we just want to boogey down to music, there is always the Beatles. I'm getting the whole back catalogue from the library. They might not be the obvious choice for kinder music. But John, Paul, Ringo and George are far less annoying and hyper than say, the Wiggles. And LGO just loves the wacky lyrics and fun melodies. Take Octopus' Garden and I Am the Walrus (for bathtime). Take Drive My Car (for ride-ons) and Yellow Submarine (for colour identification). Take Hello, Goodbye and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (for language play). Now if the Fab Four were still around and touring the globe, then, Mr Green, well, then I just might have to reconsider smashing Mr Piggy... At least there is no doubt in that instance I would get my money's worth.