Raising Baby T. Rex: The Art of Having A Good Time

Remi is a dragon and I’m a dragon hunter. She’s a bird. She’s a race car. I’m a mommy shark and she’s a baby shark. Or maybe she’s a daddy shark and I’m the baby. “Shh, it’s ok, baby,” she coos as she pets my head. “Have your bottle!” she exclaims as she jams a plastic bottle in my face.

I play. Every day. Not nearly enough for Remi’s pleasure, frankly, because I also work and write and have meetings and make dinner and do housework and there is usually just an hour or two left in every day that’s exclusively for play. And that’s a blessing.

Remi’s whole day is about play, from wake-up to bedtime. Even at preschool, her “schoolwork” is mostly just to play. She already has a distaste for work because it takes me away from her, away from playing with her. “Don’t work, mom!” she demands when she sees me heading towards my computer, “Play with me!”

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Today’s toddler tableaus: 1. There was a massive traffic jam on the living room floor highway after a herd of horses escaped their pasture. Police and emergency vehicles are on scene. 2. No school for Remi this Saturday but unfortunately animal pre-K is in session today. The baby animals (in the middle of the circle of parents) are being dropped if at this moment. Several parents were overheard saying their goodbyes and that, “Mommy will pick you up later. Have a good day.” 3. It’s time to move to higher ground for all species of dinosaurs as the wet season approaches. Severe flooding is expected as many head up the side of this mountain. The brachiosaurus is, of course, ahead of the game. Global warming, am I right? 4. While everyone else seeks shelter, this cave clearly belongs to a family of triceratops although Dimetrodon is wheeling and dealing for a spot in the cave. #babytrex #daddydino #toddlersofinstagram #playtime #toddlertableau #cars #dinosaurs #animals #weekendfun

A post shared by Zack Waffle (@daddy_dino_waffle) on

I’m always running a to-do list through my head, scrolling and looping endlessly. I’m always behind or at least it feels like that. (I know. Maybe I’m right on time, where I’m supposed to be, exactly when and who and what I need right now, etc. etc.) When I have free time, I immediately think of what work or task I can fill it with. Then, instead of doing that task, I set it all up and… watch TV or play a game on my phone for hours until I’m too tired to do anything else. That guilt-binging of TV or games was the closest I got to self-care before I had a toddler.

I don’t know if you’d call our playtime self-care time because I’m very much at Remi’s command. She calls the shots. She decides when we’re done. She knows what I’m supposed to be playing with, for how long, and in what way. She even corrects me if I do it wrong!

I do know that I hadn’t taken the time to just doodle and color every day before I had a kid. I hadn’t taken the time to read books or sing songs. I still have that to-do list looping in my brain when I play with Remi, but I don’t have any of the guilt like I do when I’m Netflix binging. I’m bonding and teaching and creating important moments with Remi and it feels right to carve out time to do so.

I feel protective of my play time with Remi. It feels good to play with her. Sometimes it just feels good to play, period, like when I get caught up in a coloring session or an impromptu dance party. I don’t know when I forgot to prioritize play in my life, but it seems like an obvious gap now. When was the last time you did a silly dance? Or colored a picture? Or put together a puzzle? Hopefully, you’re doing these things better than I was. I wasn’t doing anything like that before Remi.

We play as a family more, too. We’re always heading to the park or the zoo or to visit a farm or go on day trips. I know some couples are really good at doing date-type things like that, but that’s never been Waffle and me. We get to do things together now that we never would have taken the time to do before we had a kid.

Of course, apple-picking sounds kind of fun as a couple activity, but who has time?! We weren’t making enough money to do fun dates that cost money in our honeymoon stage (other than spending too much at the gay dive bar). We were much more into making tacos and watching The L Word on DVD in our “becoming grown-ups-ish” stage. Then we moved into the “no one closes the bathroom door anymore stage” and just never had the emotional energy between work and politics and life to prioritize paying a lot of money to pick apples you can buy at the store for less.

Enter: Remi. Apple picking with a three-year-old? ADORABLE! Petting at the two goats at the apple farm with Remi? WELL WORTH THE PRICE OF ADMISSION. Eating overpriced hot dogs for lunch at the farm stand? DELICIOUS AND INSTAGRAM-WORTHY!

We have more fun now, more time set aside just for doing fun stuff. Waffle’s work schedule is opposite mine and intense AF, so we only have one day off together as a family. Pre-Remi, we used to spend that day running errands to the point of exhaustion and then crashing on the couch with take-out. Now, we often have elaborate fun-time plans or come up with silly plans on-the-spot like going to the local animal shelter to see the horses or dropping by the Museum of Play where we have a membership.

Remi started preschool this month and we suddenly have a few hours in the morning where Waffle and I are awake and home at the same time. Because most of my colleagues are on Pacific Time, I often don’t start work until later morning on my time. So Waffle and I started reclaiming some fun adult time for ourselves. We have a standing public market and breakfast empanadas date once a week. Sometimes we do breakfast at a greasy spoon diner, just the two of us. Most weekdays, we go home after school drop-off and do our own things, but we actually get to do our own things! I’m usually working and/or writing. Today, Waffle made homemade concord grape jam from grapes we bought at the public market before he headed in to work.

Though I don’t know if it’s a direct correlation, I feel like Remi reintroduced play and intentionally fun activities into our life. I value my free time so much more now and look forward to leisure activities instead of trying to cram every minute of my alone time with a volatile mix of productivity + procrastination. Sometimes, I color or doodle by myself, just for fun.


3 Queer Parenting Things I’m Current Overprocessing


1. Please Vote

Should I make this it’s own semi-anonymous pretentious toddler art Instagram account?


2. Parenting Things I Googled This Week

  • three year old development
  • temper tantrums three years old
  • toddler diarrhea remedies
  • steven universe kid shirt
  • steven universe toddler appropriate episodes

3. Here We Are in the Future

Completely unintentionally, I got Remi into Steven Universe: The Movie. I wanted to watch it on the night it premiered and figured it wasn’t too violent to be in the background while Remi played. Little did I know it was going to be a musical. Remi loves a good tune!

Fast forward to a few weeks later and we’ve watched the movie at least a dozen times, listen to the soundtrack in the car, and Remi can sing along to most of the songs. Waffle has (incorrectly) never been into SU before, but much prefers Here We Are in the Future to Baby Shark in the car! Remi’s singalong are pretty cute, too!

KaeLyn is a 37-year-old (femme)nist activist, word nerd, and queer mama. You can typically find her binge-watching TV, over-caffeinating herself, standing somewhere with a mic or a sign in her hand, eating carbs, or just generally doing too many things at once. She lives in Rochester, NY with her spouse, a baby T. rex, a xenophobic cat, and a rascally rabbit. You can buy her debut book, Girls Resist! A Guide to Activism, Leadership, and Starting a Revolution if you want to, if you feel like it, if that's a thing that interests you or whatever.

KaeLyn has written 211 articles for us.

16 Comments

  1. You’re writing is amazing. I literally paid for A+ JUST TO READ the lesbian bed death essay you wrote. I went to school for English so I wish I had something more eloquent to say. But I don’t! Other than you are awesome!

      • Thanks to Kayla Jai’s comment above, I just joined A+ and went to read your Lesbian Bed Death essay. Wow, such great personal insight and honesty. I know it was a while ago. I’m guessing having a small person around to care for has changed things up again? Hopefully you have found a happy place within the new family dynamic. My wife and I are still working on this in our house and our oldest child is nearly 6.

  2. Thanks for sharing! I love seeing your journey with Remi here and on Instagram. I definitely struggle with just playing in my life. All my after-work hours get so quickly consumed by housework or volunteer work that when I do have time left… I just waste it scrolling on my phone. I’ll definitely be thinking this week about how I can get that wasted time back and just do something fun sometimes.

  3. I can’t count the number of pictures I have of me wearing the kiddo’s skirt as a hat or posing in full toddler femme drag. We also have a series of dinosaur tableaux with stories to go with! Enjoy it while it lasts! The grumpy teenager is just around the corner.

    • Toddler femme drag is a mood! Wow that is the perfect phrase. Mine’s beyond that phase now but it was a hoot while it lasted.

      I’m not sure what kind of drag “Batman pajama top (with attached cape), ripped rainbow striped tights, pink and purple ribbon skirt, and fuzzy monkey blanket ninja mask” is, but it’s memorable. Especially when it’s chasing you around the table being T. Rex.

  4. Remi singing 😍

    I felt exhausted just reading this and have trouble even keeping up with the play demands of my cats, so I don’t know how you manage to do even 10% of what you do in a given day, but well done.

  5. Yay another Remi installment! I absolutely know what you mean. Self care has to look WAY different after having a kid, because you are in the predicament of both having more stress, less money, less time and a bigger need to take care of yourself all in one fell swoop. Play is where it’s at :)

  6. I love this column and I love Remi and I love seeing a real and true blueprint of what queer parenting can look like. Thank you for sharing it with us, KaeLyn. We’re so lucky to get to come along on your playful adventure. <3

  7. I’ve been thinking about this article for a while. Playful is not my personality; I much more talk to the kids about their play. But I do find that I spend more time just hanging out outside when there are kids in my world than when there are not (though at the same time I do more driving and less walking and biking especially with four kiddos). Still I love watching kids play and spend time outside!

  8. I love this! For me one of the best, and most unexpected, benefits of having children is rediscovering my silly side. Granted I don’t always have it in me (children are also rather tiring) but it’s good to know it’s there somewhere inside.

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