Yesterday was one of those days. It was only 1:00 pm, and as I stood in the middle of the kitchen taking a moment to refocus, I hate to admit that I was already counting down the hours until bedtime. Or, at least, the hours until Daddy would be on his way home from work. The toddler was being his toddler-est, the rain in the afternoon forecast was a perfect reflection of my mood, and I was running out of ideas for rainy day activities that didn’t require leaving the house.
In short, I felt like I was surely going to lose my cool before 5 pm rolled around without some serious intervention.
On a whim fueled by my desperation, I did a quick Google search for a homemade playdough recipe. I remember making salt dough a couple times in my younger years, and it seemed like it would be easy enough to throw some together with things we already had in the kitchen. After scrolling through a few results, I found what appeared to be the simplest, quickest playdough recipe and started pulling ingredients, measuring cups, and bowls out of the cabinets and pantry.
Hearing the noise of cabinets opening and closing and metal cups clanking on the counter, my son wandered into the kitchen. I invited him to join me: “Come here, buddy, help mommy measure!” Together, we measured out a cup of flour into a bowl, poured in a quarter cup of salt, and warmed a half cup of water in the microwave. On a whim, I grabbed the cinnamon from the spice cabinet and sprinkled a bit in with the dry ingredients.
I moved the bowl to the floor, and bit by bit, my little helper assisted me with pouring the water into the dry ingredients. We stirred together until a ball of dough began to form. While I finished the kneading process, he bounced next to me in a sort of anticipatory dance, and a few minutes later we moved our completed ball of dough to his little table by the kitchen window.
Like any activity I attempt with my toddler, I wasn’t sure how my expectations would match the reality of how long the playdough would keep him occupied, but I was surprised at how excited he was about the new activity and how well it held his attention. As we played, I realized that the smell of the dough combined with the cinnamon reminded me of apple pie! Between that smell and the patter of the rain falling outside the window, I started to feel the itch of fall. I decided to embrace it and lit a Macintosh apple-scented candle that I had out on the counter and queued up some Mumford and Sons (which is at the top of my list of quintessential autumn music).
As we sat and squished and rolled and stamped and patted our dough, I realized that much of the stress and frustration I’d been feeling earlier was starting to diminish. It’s amazing how therapeutic kids’ activities can be for parents, too. My toddler was bobbing up and down in time to the music, which is basically my dream come true—I used to listen to Mumford and Sons (and some of our other favorites) while I was pregnant with him in the hopes that he’d learn to appreciate the same music we do. This. I thought to myself, This is what it’s all about.
And in that moment… I realized that these are the moments that I need to focus on. This age has certainly had its frustrations, but sometimes, I forget to take the time to relish all the fun things about it: the language explosion, the independence emerging, the personality developing, the way my son interacts more with me and the world around us.
So I’m making an effort to notice those things more and not let myself get so frustrated by the toddler shenanigans. As a parent, there will always be things about every age that are frustrating, and I don’t want to miss all the good parts because they’re overshadowed by the challenging moments.