When I was pregnant with my second child my mom asked me if there was anything I planned on doing differently the second time around when it came to parenting. It took me a few minutes to answer. I was mostly quite proud of my parenting choices. I think we all have moments of regret, but I couldn't instantly think of any large and glaring indiscretions. So far, in my almost five years of parenting I had done my very best, tried my very hardest and was, in general, quite pleased with the results.
Yet hidden within all that trying was what I now consider a rookie mistake. Upon further contemplation the answer to my mother's question became glaringly obvious, "I won't entertain this baby as much."
That's right I made a conscious decision to not play as often with my second baby. Before you worry that this poor second child has been neglected, please let me clarify. With my first son I was in constant entertainment mode: singing, playing, puppet shows, puzzle demonstration, etc. every waking moment. This led to some pretty serious parenting burn out, and a kid who at five years old rarely plays by himself. He expects (and rightfully so) to be entertained and kept company at all times.
I think the funniest part is how little he needed me to be that overzealous cruise director.
So with my second baby I decided to dial back the "show." I still read him lots of stories, sing songs, and give him tons of snuggles, but I also hang back and let him explore his world. I don't show him over and over how every toy works or rush to interact with him when he is happily playing independently. And you know what? He happily plays independently! In fact, he plays on his own more than his much older big brother! Some of these differences come down to temperament, but I feel that my second child and I are both happier with less play.
Since I am taking more time to observe instead of engage I am enjoying parenting a soon-to-be toddler so much more! I'm not as exhausted and frazzled from being a one woman circus and my son couldn't be more jolly. I think the funniest part is how little he needed me to be that overzealous cruise director. He is just as—if not more—social and talkative as his older brother was at that age and he has mastered many toys without my instruction. He also seems to have more patience and less interest in television. It appears as though less is truly more. I'm so glad that my mom asked me that question and even more grateful that parenting differently has worked out.
I am certain that there will be plenty of times that I hear my second child declare he is bored or request that I play with him. In fact, I would be a pretty sad if he never wanted to play with his mom, but my hope is that I have taught him a very important life skill: to create his own fun. Perhaps he will hit the dreaded twos and all bets will be off. If so, then at least I'll have the energy to put on a good show. And I'll always have my fond memories of that first year, when we pretty much just hung out.