It began innocently as I sipped my coffee at the playground while my enthusiastic 1-year-old vaulted himself over plastic equipment.
I spotted another young mom taking in the sunshine.
“Perfect day!” she said. “We’re trying to soak it all in before the heat really hits.”
Small talk, playgrounds are full of it. But today, I didn’t have to corral my son since he was busy screaming down the sewer. It was really nice to talk to another adult.
“You know, we started swim classes last winter and it was just the best! It was a great way to do something active even though it was so cold outside.”
“Wow,” I exclaimed, “that is so ambitious of you. I felt like I could barely get out of bed in the morning.”
“Yeah, I just wanted to get a head start on these things, you know? We took a music class and he takes Spanish class as well,” she said.
My beautiful blonde peer was on top of things. Her son was well on the way to being a bilingual Olympian who makes dinner for his mother while listening to Bach! It was at that moment that my son got his arm stuck in the sewer grate. I kindly excused myself and walked home in shame.
I relayed my afternoon playground experience to my husband that night. And by relayed, I mean whined.
“He must already be behind. We should have started speaking Spanish to him months ago!” I printed out and highlighed reams of paper citing various baby programs. I looked a little unhinged.
I decided I would trick Peter into enjoying a covertly educational experience. It was a brand new start to my updated parenting philosophy.
I settled on the nature museum. I knew there was a gated off area with a slide on the first floor, but we could visit that area after we had made our way around the “adult exhibits.”
I quickly discovered the adult floor involves staring at a lot of taxidermy dioramas. Not to be put off, I decided I would make sounds for the different animal carcasses. (Wait, what sound does a deer make?)
Ten minutes into my educational tour, my son started running up and down a wooden bridge. While it thrilled him, I was stressed. “Peter,” I sang, “You should follow Mommy.”
Two minutes later I heard the sound of a very familiar mammal.
My son, screaming bloody murder.
Every mom knows that cry. My stress started to reach panic mode when I couldn’t find him. A second cry and I found him—in between two panels of glass next to the bridge. Yes, my son got stuck in a museum exhibit.
I stopped to take a picture. (Come on, you know you would have done the same thing!)
It was the wake-up call I needed. This just wasn’t working. I was stressed and he was stuck next to a display of stuffed birds.
I had forgotten to think about the one person who matters the most: my son. How many years will he have where playing is his number one objective for the day?
After I pulled him out of the display, we went down to the children’s area.
And he only fell head-first down the slide once.
Kathryn Rose is a new mom living in Chicago.