Elizabeth Mitchell, costar of ABC's hit series Lost, is warm and open and laughs easily. Mitchell, it is instantly clear, could be your best friend: She's a working mom who juggles her family responsibilities with a high-octane career, all the while wishing for a few more hours of sleep and a little more time at home in Seattle, where she lives with her actor husband, Chris, and son, CJ, 3.
Having a baby has absolutely increased what I am capable of doing creatively. When you have a baby, you are so tired, but your heart grows. His whole world becomes magic. As a parent, you realize you are a maker of that magic. That's one of your jobs besides all of the practical stuff: whether or not your child loves all these things, like singing and music, has a lot to do with the way you present them.
No Sleep, No Problem
I cannot be someone who is not there at all hours. If CJ wakes up in the middle of the night, then I am going to be there, and we are going to figure out how to go back to sleep. For the first year, he just did not sleep, and now he sleeps like a rock. I think this is because I put so much time in with him back then. You stop worrying about dumb things, and you really just start doing the things that are most essential.
Rise and Shine
Kids need someone fresh -- a babysitter, grandparents, whoever -- to come in with fun ideas, and then your child's life is richer for it. This is why Chris and I alternate mornings in charge. On my mornings, we get up and I have CJ draw a picture. He has his own little table and pad. And we always listen to music. Sometimes it's classical, sometimes it's jazz, sometimes it's rock -- it just depends on what mood we're in. I like to tell him who the composer is, and then he walks around saying the name because he feels he knows something. He's like, "This is Bach." It's pretty neat.
It Takes a Village
Chris and I have different parenting styles. I never lose my patience. I understand that CJ is 3 years old. And Chris is unbelievably high energy and fun. There are giggles that come from CJ when he is with Chris that I have just never heard. They are the most beautiful things ever. I will come downstairs and Chris will have invented this fantastic, crazy running-around game. And then there are the grandparents, who are also very different. They have their own way of doing things. CJ is a funny, interactive, sweet kid, and I feel that's because he has been exposed to so many different points of view.
The Wonder of the Great Outdoors
We have almost an acre of land, so we go out and walk. CJ plays in the stream and in the pond -- any little kid can find a world of adventure. We have apple trees, and he likes to help me do some of the gardening, the cleanup, and the pruning. He has never had a tantrum outside. He's 3, so he certainly has his fair share, but I find that once he's outside, he's really happy.
Food for Thought
I never once asked him to eat a vegetable. I just had them on my own plate and his plate. I make sure that his vegetables are brightly colored and look cool. When he eats broccoli, he takes them "to the barbershop" and says that he's "giving them a haircut." There are all kinds of things he sees that I have, and they become really enticing. But he is a maniac on sugar. He had sugar at Grandma's house -- she gave him a little wheat-free brownie -- and he was off the walls. But I believe in moderation in diet and in raising your children, so a little bit of everything is fine for him.
Songs from Far Away
I'm very close with my family, and I wish my parents could live here. They speak with CJ on the phone, and we have this videophone called Skype. We also sing songs about everybody in the family. We do them about Mommy and Daddy, and then all the dogs and cats, and then of course we go to Grandma. He likes to go through pretty much everybody and account for all of the family. We want him to have that sense that he has a lot of people who love him.
Putting It on Paper
I also keep a baby journal of highlights, although I am not remotely religious about it. I keep a little thing next to my bed and try to write in it at the end of the day. I'd like to write a little letter to CJ for when he is, like, 16. It's really fun for me, too, because I can look back and see the funny entries when I wasn't sleeping the first year. Some of it is very flowery, which is not usually me: "I love you like the moonbeams." But I am reading it now and going, "Wow."
Originally published in the January 2009 issue of American Baby magazine.