Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ja Makin' Me Crazy

Can children be spoiled from too much experience?  If so, mine are and I'm not happy about it.  We’ve been on the adventure-a-day plan this summer and, while I can admit that we have hit some stinkers (like the trolley bus ride around Annapolis in 95+ degree heat), there have also been some better excursions (like beaches galore, crabbing, world-renowned museums, walks for ice cream, and water taxi rides - just to name a few).

Despite all of this effort to enrich their summer and get to know their new hometown, I am feeling a growing sense of ingratitude from my three children.  Let me share with you some quotes that painfully illustrate what I mean:

SofiaDis waterfall is oh-nee yittle.
GJ:  Just so you know…um… I've seen WAY bigger water slides before.
Johnny:  This museum is borin.’  Can we go home now?
SofiaI'm hot.  I need air conditionin.’

I have two reactions to the grating sound of their complaints and whining tones.  Sometimes I find myself lecturing about the people in Africa without enough water, or the Pakistanis with too much.  Meanwhile we have water parks where we pump our water down massive slides purely for the purpose of recreation.  I remind them that not everyone has museums or air conditioning either.  But mostly, I find myself playing the role of Pollyanna – a cheerleader for whatever thing we may be doing.  This is more than a little ironic considering that our daily adventures are usually activities that I would not choose to do on my own.  Despite the fact that on these complaining occasions, none of us want to be where we are, I can’t just give up and go home.  The kids should be having a good time.  So while thinking, “I’d like to get out of here too, OK?”  I have to say, “Little waterfalls are safer and more perfect for little girls.  I bet you can bring your mermaid dolls into it.”  Or, “This museum is world famous, let’s see what else we can see here before we go home.”

More often than not, their bad attitudes comes from exhaustion, hunger, or feeling over-heated and their behavior is age-appropriate (but no less annoying).  The summers in Maryland are really hot and we are not used to that.  But I do have to wonder if other people’s children have such a tiny zone of contentment.  How many degrees Fahrenheit sit between too hot and too cold in your world or your child’s?  I don’t think it’s more than 5 degrees for my kids.  And how come they can’t ask for something to eat before they "hit the wall"?  Or more importantly, why can't they just eat the snack provided at snack time - the one carefully prepared to provide nutrition and enough calories to carry over to the next meal?  And why do they get crazy when they’re tired instead of just closing their eyes?  These are a few of the great unsolvable mysteries of parenting for me.

My sister-in-law knows what I’m ranting about here.  One rainy day last week she handed out Windex and paper towels to her six kids and they washed windows while she lectured about the privileged life they lead with access to sport teams and swimming pools, and non-stop fun.  Right on, Mom!
So it was with very low expectations that I took the kids to the Balitmore Zoo last week.  I knew that they might get hot and stubborn and refuse to enjoy themselves but I’m stubborn too and we forged ahead despite my worries that my kids were already too worldly to appreciate this modest zoo.  I was prepared for them to tell me the animals were boring and then get surly.  So I implemented all the lessons I’ve learned about ensuring a happy day with three pint sized lunatics:

  • · I drank plenty of coffee.
  • We left at the optimal time of day, so as to arrive at the zoo in the mid-morning with time to walk around while the kids are at their fresh-morning best.
  • · I packed a small cooler full of icy drinks and healthy snacks, or "mood enhancers," as I like to call them.  They work well unless deployed them too late.  Once a bad case of the crazies sets in, not even a fruit roll-up will turn a kid's bad mood around.
  • ·  I had sunscreen, bug spray, anti-itch cream in case a mosquito infiltrated the Deet barrier, baby wipes for sticky hands and spills, cash, Chapstick, sunglasses, keys, cell phone, …
  • I put the kids in the car at the last moment, packed and pre-cooled to avoid heat-provoked mania.
  • During the one hour car ride, I delegated to GJ the responsibility of snack distribution and trash collection so I could safely drive and navigate an unfamiliar city.
  •  I called a meeting and briefed the kids on the day’s plan from start to finish.  They have a better time when they know what’s in store for them and feel a small sense of control.  We made a pact to work together to help one another have a good day and to see everyone's favorite animals.
  • ·I laid out the rules and explained the precise consequences of non-compliance - Perfect behavior or death by strangulation.
  • Everyone went to the bathroom before we began.

Then, phew, it was time to go.  We met with good fortune.  The weather cooperated – it was warm with a cool breeze.  The zoo was shady and the animals were active and not lazing around on a hot summer day as I expected.  Murphy’s Law governed, because I prepared for the worst but got the best.   The kids were dazzled by the wild life at the zoo and our day was magical!   It was as wholesome, innocent, and wonderful as I imagined a day with my children would be before I had any children and came to know the reality of living with them.  On this day at the zoo, I heard the dulcet sounds of pure unbridled enthusiasm:

Sofia: “This zoo is amazin’” 
GJ: “Hurry!  I see the zebra.”
Johnny:  “Can we please go see monkeys now?  They're so cool.”
GJ:  “Do we have to leave the aviary?  I love it here."

The kids were so high on the zoo that they didn't even gripe when I discovered that the concession stand only accepted cash.  All that my five dollar bill could get us was a single smoothie which they happily shared as I looked around to see if there were other moms around to share witness to the miracle.  On the way home from the zoo, the kids kept thanking me for such a cool day and professing their love and appreciation for me.  I ate that right up.  We discussed everyone’s favorite animal.  Sofia’s was the polar bear; Johnny’s was the chimp; and GJ’s was the African Spoonbill!  
As great as it was, the zoo was our last daily adventure of this very special summer.  I figured we should end on a high note.  School starts next week and the best summer ever is winding down.  As crazy as they made me at times, I know I will remember the zoo and other moments like it while the rougher moments continue to fade from memory.  It's funny how that happens.  I hope the same is true for the children and that I haven’t ruined them with too much fun.

1 comment:

  1. I love your blog!! You're a great storyteller....Love you all lots : )
    Can't wait to read more!