I am drifting away from pregnancy and birth, and into parenting for a bit, after an interesting morning with my 2 year old.
We were attending a local stay and play session, as we do every week, and I was aware that afterwards I would need to go and buy some bread and bananas in town, before going home for lunch. As we walked up the high street, my eldest made it clear that he wanted to wander into an adjacent courtyard of shops, rather than straight up to the baker. I paused for a second, he seemed quite insistent, so I decided to follow him and see where he took me. We looked in some windows, and chatted about them, and he watched a couple of dogs, then he decided he wanted to go up the stairs to the Goddess Temple. It wasn't open yet, so I suggested to him that perhaps we could get some lunch in town, and go back later.
Over lunch it occurred to me, why not let go of my plans for the day, and see where he took me instead, like dice living, but with infinite possibilities and fanciful logic. I recognised that there would be limitations, we were also accompanied by my 12 week old, in a sling, and I knew that his own whims may not neatly align with his needs (I could see us ending up the other side of town from the car when he decided his legs were too tired) but I could keep a handle on that.
It wasn't an unmitigated success to be honest. I had to cheat and hustle him along after 2 minutes stood outside an estate agent point at the floor saying "sick" and then looking over his shoulder and saying "lion", over and over, for no apparent reason. I had to refuse to go into his favourite cafe, as we had just had lunch and needed the last of my change for bananas, also I didn't really want to hang out in the bank. I didn't fancy standing in the middle of the road to look at the clouds, so I got him onto the pavement first.
But we did spend a very long time looking at a fluffy black dog, stopped to listen to a busker, thoroughly investigated some of the beautiful Halloween window displays (without going in to spend money we didn't have), pretended a sandwich board was a castle, walked at a slow enough pace to appreciate every gum stain on the pavement, and ran all the way down one street, because a little girl ahead of us was. He also held my hand a lot, not because I made him to keep him safe (I had his reins on in case of bolting into traffic), but simply because he wanted to.
I am very glad for this little experiment. All too often I find myself bustling through errands, hurrying him along or stopping him from wandering off, to fit into a self imposed schedule. It's really refreshing to follow his impulsive and inquisitive viewpoint. He's not loitering, he's learning; he's not running off, he's exploring. No wonder he gets frustrated when he isn't allowed to do it. It's actually pretty impressive how many thoroughly interesting things a curious toddler can find walking down the street, how much learning there is for him, right under our noses, if I stop to let him look, and to talk to him about it all.
It's definitely a game we shall be trying again soon.