Saturday, 21 September 2013

Be Positive When You Take Your Kids Out (...and not positive that things will end badly)

I am generally a very happy person, but one of my biggest faults is that I am an optimist. You may ask "how could that be a problem?"  Well, not only am I an optimist, but I am a Type A personality.  This means that when we go somewhere I naturally expect that it will go according to plan and everyone will be happy.  But, when it comes to children if you always expect the best possible outcome, you set yourself, as well as your kids, up for failure...even before you begin.  

I came to this epiphany when we were taking my first born to the zoo for the first time.  I had imagined that it would be a great day with me introducing him to all of the wonderful animals, we would draw pictures of them in the sketchbooks that I brought and that we would hear how they sounded and we could imitate them. Sounds like a great day, right? Is that even close to what happened. Nope. Did I see some animals?  Yes. Was my son able to see any animals?  Some, but so many of the animals were hidden by the greenery in their cages, or were camouflaged, or they were sleeping.  I tried to point them out to him, but at times it was quite difficult.  Could my son figure out the animals I was trying to show him? At times, yes--but otherwise, not a clue. 


My son knew all of the zoo animals, and could recognize and name them all in his books. The animals in his books were clearly visible in the middle of the page, defined by a great black key-line and a simple background. Put a live animal in a cage with some foliage and it's like playing "Where's Waldo?" with my dad without his reading glasses!  We made the best of it.  The animals were pretty quiet so we provided our own animal noises.  The sketchbooks were never brought out because as soon as my son discovered the playground he didn't want to do anything else except play in this new Utopia. 

So I made the best of it and sat with all of the other parents whose children had foregone the zoo for a mediocre park. We all tied to make the best of it.  There were, of course, a few snarky included. Did I have to spend $50 for an hour at the zoo to play in a park that wasn't even half as good as the park across the street from our house? Apparently I did because I learned a lesson that day that I carried through my years of parenting to this day:  don't have preconceptions about how an event should turn out.

If you bring them to the Science Centre with the expectation that it will be a learning experience to rival no other, and you wind up standing in line for an hour for the Aging Machine, this can put stress into a situation that would have been easier to manage if you had taken the Que Sera Sera approach...whatever will be, will be.  I am not saying to leave your "parent hat" at the door, but you have to go with the flow.  Sometimes on Christmas Day the kids just want to play in the boxes and the wrapping paper, and not the gifts that came in those boxes.  If the kids just want to wear their clothes backwards, why not?   It's not hurting anyone, and it is all for them isn't it?

This has been an uphill battle for me.  I have had to struggle to leave my expectations at home when we head out somewhere.  I have learned to be more flexible so that I can adjust to meet the inevitable hiccup in the day.  It's not always easy, but it makes it so much more enjoyable for the kids.  So, why not just let them have their fun, on their terms?  It's these funky days that create the memories that your children will remember. Look back at your own childhood memories and just see if this isn't true.  

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Back to School: Get Up and Get Out

Please check out my guest blog at Kiinzel where I talk about ways of encouraging your kids to assume some responsibility for waking up and getting ready for school in the morning.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Crime and Punishment

Our neighborhood has been in the news a lot recently. A lady a few houses down from us woke up to find an intruder in her bedroom. She grabbed her cell phone immediately to call the police and the intruder fled on foot.  They didn't catch him. A few weeks later a couple found a man reaching through their bedroom window. The husband chased the "groper" down the street but couldn't catch him. I have been watching the news and there seem to be more and more crimes reported on the news every day.  We have been told to keep our doors locked and bar our windows, and we do. We take every precaution to keep our family safe.  We street proof our children. We have two extremely vocal dogs.  I wanted to think that we were protected.

As it happens we had a situation last week.  People react differently when they feel that they are in danger. Sometimes people become paralyzed, but this is often the most dangerous reaction as it actually is a failure to react that causes the most harm. Some people flee the situation and it would appear that these people seem to have the best success rate. But what if you are in the house, it is after midnight and all of your kids are in bed? You awake to hear the sound of the door. You aren't quite sure that you heard correctly so you get out of bed and you start to head to the door to make sure it isn't one of the cats, when you hear the door again. Paralysis. Did you lock the door?  Is the burglar picking the lock?  Is he just making sure that the door is locked and that he can't get in?  You don't hear anything again but you know that you have to see if he got into the house. Weapons?  What can I use as a weapon? No baseball bats, samurai swords or any type of weapons in the house at all. There's a broom in the kitchen!  You grab it and head to the door but you don't hear anything further so you head to the front window and see if you can see the burglar.

Well this happened to me just the other night.  After the paralysis subsided, I looked out my front window and saw a man wearing a jean jacket walking from my driveway and onto the street. What do I do?  Do I wake my husband?  No, he has an early morning meeting. Do I call the police?  I have never called the police about a crime in progress before. What if this is the guy who has been breaking into the homes of the neighborhood?  I figured that I had to make a stand and call the police and warn them of a possible criminal in the area. The police officer who answered the phone call was professional and efficient and she said that she would send a car out to check out the neighborhood and they would contact me if they needed more information. My phone rang within 15 minutes.  The police officer told me that they thought that they had apprehended the person that tried to get in our house. He asked if all of my children were home. I panicked. Did this monster hurt one of my children?  I told the officer that my children had gone to bed hours ago but that I would check to see if they were all in bed. The officer paused and said that it probably wasn't necessary as the young man they found said he was my son!  Why would a robber pretend to be my son?  It would be so easy to disprove. What was his game? Suspiciously I asked the officer to find out the man's name. When the police officer came back on the line there was a chuckle in his voice as he said my eldest son's name and that apparently my son couldn't sleep so he went for a walk.  What I had heard was my son leaving the house and not a burglar trying to get in!

I was mortified. I apologized profusely and I am sure I was rapidly turning red with embarrassment. The sweet police officer reassured me that it was all ok and the officers would bring him back home.  I turned on the lights on the front stoop and waited for the arrival of the prodigal son. As his foot touched the driveway I told him that he was grounded...forever!  He looked at me sheepishly and finally smiled when he realized that I wasn't serious.  He followed me inside where we started the discussion about what happened and how we could have avoided this situation.  I am of the opinion that it is very important for us as a family to talk things out after we go through predicaments.  But I never actually thought that I would ever have to call the police on one of my children!  What a night!!

At least we can laugh about it.  But isn't that the best way for everyone to handle difficulties?