Where are we going today, daddy?

“Where are we going today, daddy?"

Day Planner

  <p class="photocaption">
    Baby Day Planner reprise. <br />(The year is 2007.)

What startled me about the question was how long it had been since I’d heard it. From the time she was about a year and a half old, Boo asked me that question every day as soon as she saw me crawl out of my coffee cup. I even made her a day planner before she was 2. It was only later that I discovered that a lot of parents with young kids don’t get out of the house every day or even half the time: daily outings were a  somewhat bizarre way of life, but they fit us.

Until about two months ago, that is, when Boo just stopped asking.

In fact, she started asking to stay home, the sole exception being her regular request to go to the coffee place for a cup of all-froth. Boo’s in a who phase, not a where phase: she doesn’t care much about destination, just company. And when it comes to company, I’m not enough.

So this morning, when Boo asked the old question again — “Where are we going today, daddy?” — I had to invent an answer pretty quick. I told her that we were going to the craft store (our “glueables” box is running dangerously low). It sounded like fun, even when you factor in all the baby stuff to pack up and mall traffic.

And Boo said “No.”

It’s very disorienting to have Boo say that she doesn’t want to go somewhere. In the old days, she’d ask where we were going, I’d tell her what I’d decided the night before — the zoo, or the playground, or the supermarket, whatever — and she’d say “OK!” and off we’d go. Maybe once a month she’d disagree with my choice and I usually let her have her way, because, heck, it’s nice to have the kid participate, you know?


So when she turned down the craft store today, I asked Boo where she wanted to go. (I haven’t been out of the house for four days, so I suspect my mouth was foaming ever so slightly as I asked.) After her usual list of responses — “London,” “London,” “The Emerald City,” and “London” she finally decided that she wanted to write thank-you notes. At home.

Who can say no to that?

Boo’s reaching out to people, not places; she wants interactions, not experiences. Better to write a note to an absent (or imaginary) friend than hike a hillside with just daddy and baby sister.

We’ve evolved to a dangerous place: Boo suddenly has all the power to keep us home. Oddly, my fix-it plan is a return to the toddler day planner from two years ago. Back then, its function was to keep Boo from asking a million times where we were going, since she could see the whole month at a glance. Now, the same would serve the purpose of getting us out of the house on a regular basis again.

My daughter is individuating, preferring her friends over me, and I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s just happening so stingingly early — I imagined that I wouldn’t be suffering this distancing eight years from now, not at age three.