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.