Most of you know that I am a fan and follower (although VERY flexibly so) of Ezzo and Bucknam's "On Becoming Babywise." I also read the "Chronicles of a Babywise Mom" blog, for answers to my deepest, burning Babywise questions. And there are a lot of them! The authors suggest in their second book, "On Becoming Babywise II" (super-creative title, team!) that parents introduce structured playpen time to their children (it is also briefly addressed in the first book). Basically, you get out your playpen, get baby a few toys, put baby in the playpen, and walk away for a little while. The idea is to introduce your child to an increasingly large space where he can be safe, and at the same time, teach him to focus on just a few things at a time. This is thought to produce children who play independently and learn limits and boundaries. The next step, as the child gets older, is introducing this "independent play time" in increasing doses of freedom--next is a blanket, then the bedroom (once it has been properly baby-proofed). Playpen time also allows baby to get used to sleeping in another environment, as they suggest that you allow him to take some naps in it. I invite you to read the Babywise mom's blog for more details about independent play time, because she has a lot of experience with it, and her son Brayden loves it!!
Not long after Zeke was born, some awesome friends of ours blessed us with their old Evenflo Pack and Play playpen. Their son, Joshua (who is partly named after my husband!) is about to be two years old, and only used the Pack n' Play a few times. The gear came to us in a big Evenflo carrying case, and had a lot of metal parts rattling around in it, so I was extremely intimidated by it. Today, I resolved to set up the darn thing and start Zeke's independent playpen time...darn it! So I opened the case, and there it is, all folded up neatly, and it took two stinkin' seconds to set up!!! It just unfolds like an umbrella! The metal pieces that were rattling around were for the bassinet insert, which Zeke is too big for, anyway. There's even a changing table that attaches!!! This thing is so cool. Anyway, so I put Zeke in it in his Bumbo seat first, since he can't really sit up on his own. He needs a little work on sitting in the Bumbo and really just leans over to the side to balance himself, so I decided to take the Bumbo out and lay him on his back with his Baby Einstein Octopus (thanks, Brandon and Miranda!) and favorite rattle (thanks, Auntie JB and Shauna!). I'm close by so I can watch him, which still counts as independent play time, since he can't see me. Until he can sit up, I figure it's best if I keep an eye on him. Of course, I started this venture incredibly nervous that I would be causing my son some irreparable emotional damage by leaving him on his own for any length of time. Although, I've been giving him short spurts of time without me on his gym and in his swing for some time now, but whatever. Well it took him a few minutes to warm up to it, as it does with most new play environments, but he is now giggling, cooing, and rolling on his side, trying to kick the Octopus and (I like to think) make it play its music. He's doing great! This post, however, has taken me FOREVER to write because I keep looking over at him to make sure he's okay!!! Zeke really has no problem with playing independently. It's me who has the problem, but if I didn't have any guilt, I guess I wouldn't truly be a mother, right? I guess this is another example of how motherhood can be difficult, but we have to do some uncomfortable things for the good of our children. Zeke is seriously having a ball over there--I'm having to stop myself from picking him up, so he can have some more fun!
I'll post some more from the front lines of mommyhood soon!