A big part of my life as a mom is finding ways to put the hours on the horn while supervising our son Sam, known affectionately in our home as Toddler Man (TM).  With a little strategic scheduling and toy placement, it CAN be done!  I block off the room with baby gates and make sure he's in my sight line at all times. 

We usually start our day with breakfast, books, and games.  It's important to spend time with him first thing in the morning for several reasons, mostly just to say hello, because he's actually a pretty fantastic little guy. :)  A nice perk of this is that the better start we can get to his day, the happier he is sneaking time off to himself, which means, yep, a longer and better practice session for me.

I always need at least an hour and a half before I play in the morning. I drink a liter of water and something hot, usually tea, so it's built-in playtime with Sam.  If I'm lucky, I can get my 20 minute beginning of the day routine in an hour and a half before he needs a nap, which is usually four hours after he wakes up.  I can get a full on start to my day two hours before he gets a nap.

Now, a note here: Sam LOVES banging on things right now.  Anything plastic or heavy that he can carry quickly goes in a bin that I keep behind his pop up ball pit.  After assembling my horn, I let him push the valves a few times so he feels like he's spent time with the horn and me, and he usually walks away to embark on his own adventures as I settle into my practice session.

I have always planned my practice sessions meticulously, so now I plan intense bursts of playing and more frequent breaks.  This way I can be interrupted for impromptu story time or, if Sam is feeling like having more time to himself, I can continue through the mini breaks that I've scheduled in.  This early in the morning though, I usually stick to a routine or scale book that I like and those take about an hour or two to get through.  Then, nap time!  An upside of having a toddler is that you have to start your day early, so I don't feel so bad grabbing a nap with him because I know I have several hours left in the day to practice.

After nap and lunch, we play a bit more and then I start working on repertoire that's on the docket for the day.  It's extremely helpful to depend on interruptions at this point because, as the playing gets heavier, I need the breaks more.  It's also kind of nice to give permission to myself to put the horn down, pick TM up, and read a book or grab a cuddle. :)  He is more restless at this point, as am I, because we REALLY need to get out of the apartment at this day.  Weather permitting, we get dressed and take a good walk.  Weather non-permitting, we treat ourselves to a tiny bit of screen time.

After dinner, I can usually sneak in another half an hour before the eyelids droop and the patience is as far gone as my mental capacity is.  It's bedtime and the day is over, and I'm done with all my work at around 8pm.  It's pretty liberating to have gotten four hours in, with no feelings of needing to get more done.  I have to admit that I rarely felt that I accomplished everything I set out to do before a toddler forced me to wake up early.

I've described a good day here, but of course there are exceptions.  If he's just really fussy that day, I have cut the first session short and taken him out for a walk, which usually distracts him from any teething pain or boredom for a little bit.  There haven't been any major auditions on my plate lately but, in the rare occasions when I just HAVE to get a run-through in or I have to leave by a certain hour, I have snapped him in his high chair with a snack, books, and some favorite toys and played a mini-concert for him.  So far it's worked!

 So to any of those new musician parents out there with newborns who are going through that inevitable phase where you are attached to your baby, it will pass!  All of the doctors we've taken Sam to agree that babies tolerate more noise than they look like they do, so practicing is not a forbidden luxury, although I make sure he's across the room when I practice louder sections of music.  For me, practicing with a toddler is not so different than my pre-mom long routines, but I find that I practice more efficiently so that inevitable breaks don't derail my day: something I should have been doing anyways!

Moms and Dads, what are your ideas and routines for practicing while hanging out with your babies and toddlers?  Any cool practicing hacks that your kids love?  In a way, having Sam and getting him used to my practice sessions shines a light on what a big place the horn holds in my heart, like we've had a sibling for the horn and now we're syncing them up day by day.  Here's hoping that this practice immersion will lead our little Toddler Man to a lifelong love of music...but not too much!

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