I get a little cuckoo when I stay at home with my kids for too many consecutive days. Usually by day 2 of breakfast eaten on the couch while the kids zone out to the Disney channel and I disappear into the internet, the nagging “you need to DO something” voice starts playing in my brain.
I don’t know why, though, because usually the kids are perfectly content and so am I. It’s the guilt that makes me do it. Guilt is like my silent partner in this parenthood project. Always there, guiding my actions with a dirty look or a smirk but never a word. I hate guilt, that bitch.
So last week I decided that we would begin DOING more things away from home. We went to a park. It was fun, but hot. We went shopping. That always ends badly, my children seem to become inmates on the lose when they are in large spaces with flourescent lighting. We went out to lunch. We went to the farm stand.
I did a little internet research on one of the staying-home sloth days and decided to bring the kids into “the city”. Guided by the GPS, we spent the morning at the Nature Museum. We endured a too-long, non-compelling puppet show. We looked at animals, plants, bugs. The kids played in various play areas. I let them choose an item to buy from the giftshop. We ate the lunch I brought with us outside and then did the little trail behind the museum. The kids, who had been semi-interested in most of the exhibits, came to life when they realized that the trail was made of pea gravel. Yep, the kids became very excited about dragging their fingers through it, stacking rocks on top of each other, and collecting various things from the brush to leave in piles on the trail for the animals to find and eat.
It was, in truth, a nice but boring way to spend 1/2 the day. So I decided to up the tantrum odds by bringing the kids to the $2 movie theater to see Monsters vs. Aliens.
As soon as we entered the cinema building, both kids bee-lined the candy display that was set down low just for them. After the 45th request for candy while we were in line for popcorn, I sent the oldest off an a timeout. In the meantime, I paid $3.50 for a bag of popcorn that was as big as a brown lunch sack, and $4 for the only non-caffeinated beverage they had, Sprite. Yes, I spent more money on snacks than I did on movie tickets.
As we walked to the theater, I grabbed one of those seat-inserts that allow very small kids to sit in the seats instead of being swallowed by the spring action. I asked my son to carry the tiny bag of popcorn. He did. Until we chose our seats in the dark theater, then he just sort of dropped the bag and $3.50 worth of popcorn went all over the floor. (ok, all over is an exaggeration since there really maybe 25 pieces of popcorn in that bag, but still) I was so angry about this, irrationally so, because I had spent $3.50 on nothing. Mind you, that was almost 2 tickets to this theater.
That left the soda, which the 2.5 year old kept muckling onto like a fiend. She kept the straw in her mouth nursing the soda from the cup for about 10 minutes before it suddenly occurred to me that the penance to be paid for the 10 minutes of peace would be the eventual round of non-stop trips to the toilet. Hooray for potty training, but boo for tiny bladders.
It wasn’t until today that I finally realized what must be obvious to you, the reader: the kids are thrilled by things that I do not find exciting. This is a big deal to me because it’s the first time I’ve really registered that my kids are not ME, they have interests beyond what I choose for them – or what I present to them. Today we went to a drive-thru animal park. We were able to feed all sorts of animals from the comfort of our vehicle. When we finished the drive, we parked and wandered through the petting zoo. The husband and I thought it was all very, very cool. But we are animal lovers.
The kids, however, were ecstatic that they were able to move around inside the van without being confined to their carseats. The deer and llamas and emus sticking their heads in the windows to eat from our hands were merely a distraction from the thrill of intra-vehicular mobility. At the petting zoo, the kids were drawn to the dirt and gravel covering the grounds. While we were pointing out the lemurs and the gigantic koi, my son – the bug lover – exclaimed “look at the butterflies!!”
Lesson learned. Next week I think we might go bug hunting in the backyard, but only after we watch Noggin for a while.