I have been a bit obsessed about Other People’s Stuff since before having Luciana. I’d say the area that I doubt myself the most as a mother is around Play. I have feared, from the time she was about 3 months and waking up as they do at that age, that I don’t know how to play with her “right” and that I don’t have the “right” toys and playthings. Mind you, I am not a fan of having Lots of Stuff. I like everything to have a place, and if it doesn’t, I’d like to let something go before we bring the new thing in. Having a child has rerouted that path in my brain, and I have been convinced in so many moments that I NEED this, that, the other. Not the things that light up, talk, do things for her to watch–those have never called me–no–it’s the beautiful wooden toys, the cloth puppets, the perfect toy kitchens, the puzzle that does something different than our puzzles, the ride-on toy that we have no room for, the teepee I want for the backyard we don’t yet have. It hasn’t mattered to me that her shelves all have lovely things on them and a few in the closet “resting” til we bring them out again. Being a mother has made me WANT in a way that’s new–and kinda freaky–to me.
I know now that all mothers face insecurity and that it shows up in different ways for all of us. There is much of how I parent that I trust and am very proud of. These insecurities, like most of our insecurities, aren’t based in any truth, in any evidence–it’s just where the bug got in and dug its prickly bug feet in. Maybe because I have a mother who should have a PhD in play–the woman is so gifted at creating games out of pennies, lip balm, a leaf, a pot, ANYTHING–it’s amazing —that I have a high standard for myself. Maybe it’s because when we first hired Luciana’s babysitter when I was doing a play I would hear Luciana laughing and laughing in a way she didn’t with me and I felt threatened. Maybe it’s because one of my weaknesses is comparing myself to others, so why wouldn’t that show up here?
In this high-anxiety morass I find myself eyeing other people’s playrooms when we’re at their houses; studying what Luciana is drawn to searching for it on Amazon or Etsy after she goes to bed; scrutinizing her at home to see if she’s totally bored and unstimulated by everything in our house. I may tell myself that kids who grow up with literally NOTHING to play with go on to give TED talks, but somehow I am convinced that if I get the “right” stuff for her, she will fulfill her potential. She will be happy. What a crock of S**T. I am embarrassed to even say it! But I don’t write this blog to save face.
meanwhile she’s happy playing with daffodils
Of course on some level I know better, but knowing something doesn’t always mean you feel it. Enter Amazing Parenting Book which may be old news to you but in case it isn’t, I have to tell you about it. Momma Zen by Karen Maizen Miller is my evidence for the day that the Universe is benign: meaning that it couldn’t be otherwise and send me such perfect reading material when I so needed it. I’m not finished because I keep going back and re-reading parts. She’s a–as you might have guessed–a Zen buddhist and Buddhism teacher. Here’s what she says in her chapter on Other Toys:
What do we mean by all these things we want “for our children”? All these things we think they “need”? Whatever they are, and however we acquire these things, the fact remains: desires are inexhaustible. Chasing them, however, will exhaust you. It will frustrate you. It will cause worry and anxiety, grumbling and dissatisfaction. …It will cost you money and it will cost you time, all the while distracting you from your life, bountiful and precious, right in front of you…”
And I am tremendously grateful–and it made me smile big–for her reminder that kids like other kids’ toys “precisely because they are not yours”. Seems so obvious, but noooooo I didn’t come to that on my own. I could go on about her and the book, and I probably will at another time. Meanwhile, you can click here and follow her blog. You know I do.
And side note: the weather was insanely beautiful this weekend–a taste of summer wafting through the yard. I pulled last year’s water table out of the garage and repurposed the bath toys and yogurt containers into water table friends.
It’s all Luciana has wanted to play with since Saturday and I didn’t spend one freaking dime.
I do want an Etsy play kitchen for her, but it seems we both can wait.