Last year, I watched a friend's child, who was a bout three years old, roll on the floor and sing songs to himself. He chose toys to play with - by himself. Both the choosing and the playing were done by himself.
I stared. Other mothers stared. Each of us bounced babies or young children on our laps or scrambled across the floor, zooming cars or trotting animals. All the mothers also tried to converse with varying degrees of luck. Leo's mother must have noted the room's collective stare. She bounced her own infant, Leo's baby sister, on her knee, and she said, "This is what you have to look forward to. This is three years old. They start playing by themselves, usually when I'm about ready to leave the house, but…"
"He's singing to himself, Kat," I said.
"Yes," she answered simply.
"Wow," I said.
I went back to zooming, trotting, and scrambling.
Since that time, we've reached that magic age. Beren's in his sandbox. Beren's on the couch playing with Legos while Jared types on his laptop. Beren's gotta go, and he goes. Beren's sweeping out the greenhouse with me. Then, Beren's on the swing and wants to be pushed. Or, he plops in the sandbox, and I feel the urge to weed the garden, but I plop down next to him.
Sometimes I go and weed, and I feel guilty. Of course. He's playing by himself. That's a good thing, for everyone. Remember when you had exactly zero minutes to yourself, Rachel? Still, hardly a minute goes by without thinking something about being a mother, but I can do adult things with my child or with my child nearby.
Ah yes, so long as that adult things is not: talking on the phone nor having a "discussion" with Jared. Forget it.
We've always tried to include Beren in our work. He has his own clippers and will use them, whether we might like it or not. Purple milkweed by the front of the house? Oops. But then, there goes a pokeweed, and better choice for clipping. He likes to lug things, dig things, and figure out where plants can be planted. "A sedge or a cynthia there?" No answer. "Sometimes they call this Krigia. Do you like the name Krigia or cynthia better?" "Krigia." "Which do you want to put in this hole?" "Krigia."
"Don't cut the snakewoot, Papa," he says while Jared scythes the work area. "Not the snakeroot?" "No." "OK."
And about that scythe - we have no money to buy a big tiller. We have no money to build a big shed to park it in. When one of us wavers on the "no lawn mower" stance, the other pulls the purse string tight. No mower. No shed anyway. We also have child who is very intrigued by power tools when they are off. A scythe and shears are the resolution for those with no money for more two cycle engines, no shed for two cycle engines, and a child startled by two cycle engines.
Solo play and participation and sharp blades - it's how we've been able to set up our farm at our new home. It's been, mostly, a pleasure. The milkweed will be back in 2015, and meanwhile Krigia is doing great.