Independent play; it comes along much too quickly. We wait for a time when we can leave them on their own to play. A time when we don't have to hold them or watch them so closely. A time when we can put them in a jumper and watch them enjoy themselves. A time when we can leave them to their own devices while we take a much-needed break or catch up on things.
And then when it happens it's a mixed bag really. Those first few months you are consumed by the presence of this child. You are consumed with needing to watch them, engage them, and cuddle them. And then you hit the point where they can entertain themselves. And you are left wondering what to do with all this free time you have. What do you do when you don't have your hands filled with a little bundle of joy?
Your brain tells you that you should be productive now that your child can entertain his or herself. You should do the dishes, fold the laundry, clean the bathroom, or any number of neglected tasks. You should catch up on things. You should make use of this time.
You should catch up on your emails. Do some work things. Make dinner for the first time in months. You should do so many things. You should be productive.
And yet you sit and watch them play. You sit and watch them discover new textures and sensations. You listen to them laugh and cry and coo and giggle. You pick them up when they flop over. And suddenly hours pass where you could have done productive things and all you did was sit there.
It's difficult to leave them alone and do things. You want to savour every moment of their discovery. You want to watch them learn and explore. But adult responsibility pulls at you. It nags at your brain. It tells you there are plenty of things to be done. It tells you that you should get up and do them. And you feel guilty for sitting there and doing nothing but watch your child play.
But you are doing something. You are spending time with them. You are watching them grow. This phase disappears so quickly. They grow so quickly. It is natural to want to observe every part of it. It is natural to want to be a part of it.
The idea of leaving them to just play by themselves is a little daunting. They have needed so much care and supervision so far. Now they are capturing their first bits of independence. They are growing up. And it's terrifying. Because it is not going to stop. They are going to keep growing, keep gaining independence, and you fear becoming obsolete to them.
Sure you can get stuff done now, but they are already losing a bit of their dependence on you. They are already becoming more and more free-spirited. And you can just sit and watch. It's really all you can do as a parent. You can't stop it.
You blink and they grow up on you so you want to savour it all as long as you can. But you also want to find a routine, find a bit of normalcy in your life again.
Parenting is hard. There are no guidelines to follow. You have to do what feels right to do. So sit and watch them for a while longer. Or fold that laundry and do the dishes. Whatever makes you feel best. And enjoy every minute. Because before you know it they will be all grown up and having lives of their owns.