It was very important to me to introduce Leo to the world at an early age. I wanted him to get used to the world outside of our home. I wanted him to get to know his town and community. If I needed to run errands, I took him with me. If I wanted to go downtown to my favorite park, we went. Every mom has to decide for themselves when they are ready to take their baby out and about. Sometimes they are not ready. But hopefully, you will be able to acclimate your baby to the world around them by gradually introducing them to new people, places, and experiences. Below are an array of things I wanted Leo to experience within his first month on Earth.
Grocery Shopping. I love our town. I love that I can walk to our local grocery store. It takes literally fifteen minutes and that’s when I’m taking my time. And I love that our local grocery store is family-owned. Going there is like going to Cheers – everybody knows our names. It only seemed natural to have one of Leo’s first outings be going to our local market. At about two-weeks-old I buckled him up into the stroller, got our tote bags, and strolled on up to the store. At first he slept the majority of the time. Now he’s up for the whole trip. We say hi to our friends that stock the produce while we pick out lettuce and peppers and zucchini. We chat with our friends at the deli counter while they package up our meats and cheeses. I talk about what’s on our list, how to pick out produce, and discuss what we are getting for dinner. Finally, we make small talk with our favorite cashiers as we get ready to check out. I know that taking a kid to the grocery store will not always be an easy or desirable thing to do. But I hope that by doing this with Leo while he’s young, it will make it less difficult when he’s, say, a toddler.
Costco. While I love going to our local Mom-and-Pop grocery store, there are some things that we have to get elsewhere. And while I do as much shopping online as I can (#Amazon #ThriveMarket), sometimes we have to go to Costco. I waited until Leo was a month old before I took him to Costco mainly because I wanted him to be big enough for and comfortable with our Ergobaby first. I will never forget the look on his face when I walked him in for the first time. Clearly, going into a gigantic warehouse with huge bright lights surrounded by tons of people busily pushing around huge shopping carts is a drastically different experience from pushing a stroller around a small grocery store. The first trip was, needless to say, a little rough. Even though I gathered what we needed in about thirty minutes, by the time we got to the checkout line Leo had had enough. With the help of a pacifier and some white noise I played on my phone via YouTube, I was able to checkout and get him out of there. Now that Leo’s been to Costco close to a dozen times, he’s a pro at it. We get our cart and head straight to the produce. We run through the refrigerated food cooler, get our peppers, grapes, and whatever else we might need, and run out. We jet by the meat and cheeses, slide by the household cleaning products, and then down to the freezer section. We hit up the vitamins and toiletries, and then finally the snacks. When the checkout lanes are adequately staffed, we can be in and out of there in thirty minutes or less (during the week that is). When he’s older I’m sure trips to Costco will take much longer, namely because he’ll want to stop at every station for samples.
The Library. I started reading to Leo as soon as we brought him home from the hospital. Actually, his first book was one of those black and white board books containing pictures of concentric circles and patterns of dots and squares. There were no words so I just described the pictures to him. After a few weeks of reading a book a night we kind of exhausted the small library I had accumulated at home. I know Leo wouldn’t care one way or the other if I read the same book everyday, but I needed some new material. So we started going to our local library once a week. Just like the grocery store, our local library is within walking distance from our house – about a mile to be exact. I used to go all the time to get books to read to my class so I was already very familiar with the children’s section of our library. We started with the Eric Carle books and then moved on to authors like Todd Parr, Donald Crews, and Lois Ehlert. Leo loved the, bold colors of the illustrations and I loved the simplicity of the stories. Now, since Leo loves to help turn the pages, we stick to the board books. We also started going to the special story time they have once a week for infants and toddlers. The librarian reads 2-3 books to the group and leads us in few songs. They also have a Music and Movement class that I will take Leo too when he’s a bit older. Needless to say, I love our library and I am glad I am able to take Leo there regularly as my mom did with me.
The Great Outdoors. I love being outside, even on a cloudy day. Whether it’s hiking up a mountain or strolling around town, I love being outdoors. In the summer when I was younger and unattached I would drive three hours just to enjoy a few hours on the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan. Weekend day trips to Saugatuck State Park are not as feasible with an infant, but I was determined to instill my love of the outdoors in Leo too. I really didn’t have to do anything because, like many children, the kid loves being outside just as much as me.
I started with our neighborhood park. At first the idea of taking a two month old to the park seemed silly. It’s not like he was going to be climbing up the playscape or asking to swing. But I knew he loved trees. He loves watching the leaves rustle in the wind. So I threw our diaper bag and a blanket in the basket of the stroller and took him up to our neighborhood park (another thing I love about our town is that most people are within a mile for a park). I found a big tree and a patch of soft grass to lay the blanket on and he just laid there and watched the clouds and leaves.
It didn’t take long for us to branch out from our neighborhood park. Sometimes we go downtown and take the Dequindre Cut to the Riverwalk and lay a blanket out down there. The people watching is great along the river. Sometimes we drive over to Belle Isle and watch the freighters go by. And when I plan ahead, I have him nap in the car while I drive us to Ann Arbor. We’ve down the Leslie Science Center and Gallup Park so far, but I plan to take him to the Arb (Nichols Arboretum) once the deciduous leaves start to change – any excuse to take him to the Deuce. And of course, we love taking family trips up north when my husband can get off of work. Michigan is such a beautiful place to explore. So far he’s been to Wilderness State Park, the beach in Petoskey, Tahquamenon Falls, Ocqueoc Falls, and this random beach off of U.S. 2 in the U.P.. All we really need is a soft patch of grass and some shade, so we often just set up shop in the front yard. But I still love finding different places for him to explore.
Music. Although not a person or place, music was something we wanted to be a part of Leo’s life early on. Between my husband and I, Leo has been introduced to everything from Phish and the Grateful Dead to James Brown and Curtis Mayfield. When we are relaxing outside we often listen to Ella Fitzgerald or George Gershwin on Spotify. In the car, we frequently listen to the Beatles. When I’m working out, we’re listening to M.IA., Missy Elliot, or Kanye West , or if I’m doing Yoga, Ravi Shankar. Sometimes I put on some Chopin or Debussy when he’s playing in his room. When my husband is cooking, we might be listening to Bob Marley or Thievery Corporation. And of course, we also listen to the Frank Leto children’s albums I used in the classroom. In short, Leo has heard it all. There’s almost always music playing in our house, even if it’s just playing quietly in the background. I’m sure as he gets older we will be a little more conscious of the language used in the songs he hears, but for now I just want him know that music is as diverse as the people of this planet.
Providing new experiences for Leo has definitely been a highlight of being a mom. I love to see the look on his face when he goes someplace new – he takes in his entire surroundings. Or, the inquisitive look he gets on his face when he hears something for the first time – he gets this look on his face like he wants to say “what was that?”. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to rediscover the world as he encounters new people, places, and experiences. Where ever you go and whatever you do, I hope you enjoy these moments too as your baby meets (the) world.