I’m staring at the full moon from the 42nd floor of a green building in downtown Austin, Texas, my new home away from home. But this view of the moon- and the fact that I’m here in Austin with my 3-year-old daughter, reminds me of my baby moon.
I remember reading that trendy term when I was about 6 months preggers: “Baby moon,” as if it was an age-old, mandatory rite of passage…I wonder if Hallmark was involved in this one.
My husband, my sex-unknown baby-to-be, and I took what would be our last trip where we could stay up late, use bad words and at least one of us could drink as much as we chose. We went to Quebec and it really was a great trip. In hindsight, it was the last trip of our couple-hood, but the “baby moon” was a well-conceived idea…no pun intended.
So flash forward almost four years and I recently came across an old journal entry, I’m guessing it was from high school. Apparently I was thinking of the days ahead and my future success and I wrote something to the effect of “may I never be one of those moms…with a full-time nanny, who doesn’t have time for her own kid,” blah, blah, blah…
So here I am, a former editor for a national magazine, whose work did require me to have a full-time nanny for a while. And although I left the position to have more time with my daughter, I immediately started a business and continue to work as a freelance writer.
So it made me think… “Am I one of those career-workaholic, nanny-raises-her-kids, types?” Sure I take trips all the time with my little girl, but dedicated, one-on-one time for more than a weekend? Okay, not a lot, I realized. So I decided to have what I’m calling a “toddler moon” with my little girl.
A toddler moon… Fortunately, I am in a position to do such things, since my work goes with me, but it’s summer and I’ve carved out almost 4 weeks to spend with my daughter in Austin.
Why Austin? Sure it’s the birthplace of Whole Foods, and it has a great music scene, awesome Tex-Mex food and great day trips like tubing the Guadalupe, not to mention a bizarre bat colony living under a bridge downtown, but according to Grist and Treehugger, Austin is also one of the greenest cities in the world.
This trip isn’t about touring a green city; although we are having our share of nature outings, duck tours and museum visits. Of course we are not in exile either, as there are daddy visits and extended family get-togethers for the 4th of July. But this toddler moon, mommy-daughter trip is about getting back to what’s important, dedicated one-on-one bonding time… away from work, away from the routine of every day.
This is the stuff memories are made of; after all, I remember bits and pieces of my age 3 with a mom who worked, and I’m determined to make this trip filled with memories– or maybe just glimpses– that my daughter will return to in her years ahead.
So before summer and toddlerhood are over, consider a toddler moon of your own and get to know your kid– and yourself again. It doesn’t matter which city you choose– at home or abroad- there are tons of ways to enjoy the time together. Check out our suggestions for Austin, which can be easily adapted to almost any city. But of course, don’t forget the tried and true, like flying kites, playing board games, or wandering aimlessly through the city’s best toy store. And don’t forget the three summer fun basics, or the “three Bs:”
- Bubbles- always bring bubbles. They make the most boring moments fun again.
- Balloons. When in doubt, find a balloon. Kiddo will be happy as a lark.
- Balls. Remember the old adage… “Take time to stop by Target and bounce balls with your bambino.” Here in Texas, I swear there is a Target every 20 miles.
On tap for our Toddler Moon in Austin this summer:
- A tour of Austin… We’ll play tourist, riding around town in a boat-like car with Austin Duck Adventures before we plunge into Town Lake just like the character in our latest favorite storybook, If I Built A Car by Chris Van Dusen.
- A few visits to the local Austin Children’s Museum
- Train rides at Zilker Park with a grape snow cone in hand
- Cave Exploring…We’ll beat the 102 degree Texas heat by touring some unusual “dry” cave I discovered on the Austin area map.
- Perhaps a fancy, manners teaching opportunity during afternoon tea for two at the Four Seasons Hotel.
- Car Culture Catch-Up… I’m excited to simply drive again! Aside from the occasional car share trips to our local wholesale club, this carless NYC family member welcomes the rare opportunity to drive around town in a rental hybrid Prius with kiddo in tow.
- A Car Wash- Sometimes fun is right in front of you, disguised as a chore. The highlight of our driving experience includes a simple gas station drive-through car wash. Truth be told, I get as excited as my daughter.
- A Sweet Treat. Cool off with a snow cone or a frozen yogurt, or better, a lemon meringue cupcake with lemon filling and a graham cracker crust from Delish.
- Food You Can’t Get Everyday–Southern comfort food and Salt Lick bar-b-que…need I say more?
- A pedicab or horse drawn carriage ride down Sixth Street to hear the music and see the sights.
- An unusual store the size of a Walmart, called Cabela’s. It has an aquarium, a shooting arcade, stuffed animals, and I don’t mean fluffy kitty cats and teddy bears; I mean a taxidermist’s dream with real stuffed wild cats and bears. This place was the perfect opportunity to teach my daughter my stance on hunting and killing animals. Oh, and despite the content for which I have some issues, this place has the best customer service I have ever experienced.
- The Austin City-Wide Garage Sale, where we found a vintage accordion-style organ, now my daughter’s newest instrument.
- A rare late night treat. Consider a movie, or better, July 4th Fireworks!
- A multi-part history lesson while celebrating our nation’s birthday: decorating a cake to look like the US flag, with strawberries for stripes and blueberries for stars, and pointing out every Texas and US flag as we drive around the proudest state in the union.
- The Austin Zoo, mostly an animal sanctuary, and a good place to talk more about animals and that crazy store we went to earlier!
- A local oddball or lesser-known museum. I like historical museums, so I’m thinking the George Washington Carver Museum.
- Get to know the locals, insects, that is…My daughter’s going through an “I hate bugs” period, so I take every opportunity to change the experience by saying, “You’re in the bug’s house now,” or “look at that amazing dead bug that can’t hurt you.” But the weird dead insect collections we keep finding at flea markets, antique stores and roadside booths are great too. Take the time to investigate and learn about them when they can’t bug ya.
- Try A New Food Together. This one I have to work on…so far venison jerky is on the maybe, but doubtful list.
- When in Rome… We don’t get to swim much living in NYC, but Texas heat almost requires a daily dose of water. We’ve scoped out the constant 68-degree, spring-fed Barton Springs, as well as a skinny-dipper’s dream, Hamilton Pool and the water fountain at Butler Park, next to the Palmer Events Center.
- Buy local. Support the local merchants, whether it’s fresh food from farmer’s markets, local restaurants, or clothing stores. Austin is big on their local flavor and many merchants accept the Go Local card which offer patrons great discounts.