Ice cream wasn’t the only thing on the menu though I could have it for breakfast lunch and dinner. We also made a roast, crepes, roasted tomato soup, a roasted chicken dinner, and a barley grain salad. It isn’t gluttony, its meal-prep for the week and it ensures that I can get a proper dinner on the table most evenings. Do you meal prep for the week?
A family dinner out was a very foreign concept when we first moved to Philadelphia. The girls were 3 years and 3 months old and neither would sit through a full meal irregardless of having toys. Its been almost three years and we are just now starting to gather the courage to head out for an enjoyable dinner out. First Friday provides the perfect backdrop for a dinner date — Old City is buzzing with people getting drinks, food, looking at art and repeating much of the same. We decided to follow suit and have drinks, oysters, and finish the night off with an art gallery crawl and ice cream. Why oysters? Besides the fact that they’re … well … oysters, they’re fast to order and fast to serve up and thus provide a low-risk time commitment when dining with kids.
And, on occasion, we play tourist in our own city having walked over to the Liberty Bell on Saturday morning to learn about how the bell broke and what fix was attempted.
We were a family of five for a week and it was so, so nice. The girls, Evan, and I hosted my nephew Alex while he attended a photography camp at Fleisher Art Memorial. Old school photography with real film and a manual camera is slowly becoming less common and I am so glad Alex showed interest in learning how it used to be done. Looking back at my own childhood, I had great fun assisting my dad when he developed his own film in our dark room.
Camp and photography is one thing, but photography at a camp that looks like this is another. Fleisher is housed in an old church complete with a gorgeous stained glass window that looks like it was transported straight out of Verona, Italy.
Outside of camp we enjoyed a lot of family time and the kids spent time together doing what kids do best — self-directed play.
Connect4, coloring, strawberry ice cream and fancy water. Fancy water is my way of encouraging everyone to drink lots of water by dropping berries into a to-go cup.
This past week wasn’t just about camp or family/cousin time. It was about providing Alex with an opportunity to live in the city for a week. Alex seized this chance with open arms and took it all in observing the diversity of the neighborhood we live in and the one where he attended camp (Queen’s Village). We had great conversations talking about the city, the neighborhoods, the history that is all around us, and our life here. We spoke about why Evan and I make this city our home and about how we make choices. I had such a nice time getting to know my nephew who is no longer a child but much more of a young adult. He is lovely and I am looking forward to making this a tradition.
Time flies, kids grow, and we age. True. More than that, time flies, kids grow, and we learn. Parenting, for me, has been very different from what I imagined it to be. Actually, I am not sure I imagined anything when it came to parenting. My perception was that parenting was about ensuring that your child was fed, clean, and happy. And it is but it is also about so much more than that. Parenting is about helping your child find out who they are and providing them with the tools necessary to shine and make a difference in the world.
I found that the best way to prepare children for the real world that lies beyond the home is through instilling a basic but very important fact: the rest of the world won’t bend around you and that everyone, at times, must conform to expectations. How does one teach children to at times be defiant and at times conform? Expectations. Failure to set expectations for children to confirm to in early childhood will result in a serious shock to their emotional well-being as young adults. In our own family, we have used responsibilities, activities, and school as a means to teach about expectations.
We made, what was at that time, a difficult choice to send Sophia to pre-school. I remember doubting our choice thinking that three was really very young to end the honeymoon-like time of being a toddler at home. Besides learning baby yoga and how to papier-mâché, Sophia learned what it means to manage her own time and to function on a schedule. She learned to wake up and go to school even if she didn’t feel like it, to get dressed, and make the best of the day. Being in school and part of a larger collective means that a child has to manage themselves for a few hours each day. We are following suit with Eliza who attends a few scheduled classes a week. Looking back, I regret that we didn’t enroll Sophia into a few classes even before pre-school. Social development cannot be fully achieved solely in a home environment.
This structure and a degree of rigidity doesn’t imply that we have a stuffy environment devoid of laughter and silliness. At least one of our girls declares that “we won’t be besties” if she doesn’t get her way freely. That’s fine. I am happy to sometimes be “besties” with them and sometimes not. Responsibility and expectations may at times be quite a burden for children but it does have its rewards.