One of the most dreaded two word sentences a parent will hear.
Summertime is usually when these syllables slide out in a long groan from the mouth of a child slumped over the arm of an overstuffed chair, feet up, head hanging down.
You offer suggestions. None of them satisfy this pretzel twisted child.
Then you ask the question you’ve been holding back in hopes your other ideas would spark interest.
“What would you like to do?”
The litany begins:
Bonkers? (sunny and 80 degrees, who wants to be inside?)
Chuckie Cheese? (the name causes a cold sweat)
Laser Quest? (wear ear plugs if you’re a newbie)
Red Sox Game? (ticket prices WAY out of reach here!)
Pool Party? (maybe I can deal with this on a limited kid basis)
We live on the coast. A coast known for beautiful, pristine beaches, many kid friendly parks and scenic views that tourists flock to see every year.
But, my grandson has ‘seen all that stuff’, after all we live here!
What happend to the days when a kid just got out of bed in the mornign and couldn’t wait to greet the day, a mom usually insisting he or she at least guzzle a glass of juice before heading out. Bikes to ride, trees to climb, forts to build…all that creative, imaginative stuff that make for sweet dreams when his head hits the pillow, weary but happy.
I think parents have spent far too much time schlepping kids to every new attraction, theme park and event that they’ve forgotten the art of play.
Perhaps we need to reintroduce our children to simple, creative, imaginative play. Dust off the bike and go for a ride. Take a short hike in some nearby woods and collect pine cones, leaves. Lift rocks to see something squirmy slither out. Bring a picnic lunch and sit under a tree and just……listen.
Think I’ll go dig out the wicker picnic basket and upright that boy before the blood pools in his head.
I’m very fortunate to have extensive experience facilitating parenting education groups as well as many years working in a social service agency. Both of these situations have afforded me wonderful resources in terms of access to people who work with children and have a wealth of knowledge around child development issues. It’s a resource I’ve tapped multiple times over the years.
With all this knowledge and resources at my fingertips, one would think I’d have a handle on just about any situation that arises when one is parenting a child.
Wrong. I don’t.
Case in point. The GrandPrince (grandson approaching eight years old in a few weeks) recently was behaving in a manner that was, well, not himself. He was flippant, a bit combative, sulky and challenged almost every statement or decision I made insisting on knowing the ‘why’ of each one and loudly voicing his reasons as to why it should or should not happen.
Now I have a pretty democratic parenting style. I know not to get pulled into power struggles, the importance of giving choices, when to set boundaries and limits and respecting a child’s feelings. But this kid was pushing my buttons big time!
I talked to the Spouse about the GP’s behavior and he was as stumped as I was. It was simply out of character for him. The light bulb went off for both of us at the same time.
He must have some dormant feelings he’s not dealing with about his adoption/living situation/mother/sister/not having a traditional family, etc, etc. You name it, we came up with it. We immediately put our head’s together to determine a strategy that would help to narrow down what could be bothering our grandson and how best to support him and encourage him to share his feelings with us.
Given my access to the above mentioned resources, I spoke to a dear friend who happens to be a fabulous social worker with a number of years in the field working with children and families. I listed all the behaviors and the possibilities for this acting out that had changed our usual compliant, good natured grandson into an irritating, restless, sullen stranger. She listened quite attentively, nodding appropriately and then sat back a minute before replying.
“I can see how upsetting this is for you, and how perplexing too. Have you thought that perhaps he’s just being an eight year old?”
I blinked. And blinked again. I was complicating things by overlooking the simplicity of them. I dug out some child development books and lo and behold I could have inserted his name right under “Your Eight Year Old’s Social/Emotional Development”.
My point in all this is, as grandparents raising our grandchildren we are at times hell bent, I believe, to make life as ‘normal’ as possible for them to make up for what they don’t have; that traditional Mom and Dad who are age appropriate and are just like the parents of all their friends.
Truth is, we’re not a traditional family, but we *are* a family. A loving, caring, nurturing, supportive family. And yes, our circumstances are different from the traditional families on the block and with that comes, at times, issues that must be addressed, questions answered, feelings expressed and dealt with. But most of the time, we’re just like everyone else who’s raising a child and trying to do the best they can to help that child grow to be a happy, confident, loving, caring human being.
It’s not always about the differences, sometimes it’s just about being eight. Happy Birthday, kiddo.
How many times have we heard that inquiry over the years? More importantly, how many times has the reply been one that brought a cheer instead of a frown attached to a groan? I’ve come to believe that nearly 8 yr old boys can sustain themselves on cheeseburgers, mac and cheese (boxed only), peanut butter on toast and frozen waffles (warmed in the toaster that is).
I try my best not to make meal time a battlefield. It causes stress around a time that should be relaxing and facilitates a reconnection back to the family after a day away. With all the issues many of our children face, the last thing we as parents need to add is an eating disorder! Now I’m not so naive as to think lecturing about why that wilted green thing on your child’s plate is nutritiously good for them will lead to anorexia, however, it certainly won’t foster pleasant memories of time spent around the dinner table.
The Spouse is a man who believes it’s important for kids to have a variety of foods. He touts the nutritional value of different vegetables; the warnings about consuming too much read meat or the benefits of fruits every day. I concur with it all. But try telling all that to a finicky eater as you place an artichoke on his plate! I didn’t eat one until I was over 50. Mainly because I was too embarrassed to ask HOW to eat the darned thing and to be honest it looked like a lot of work for such little pleasure. But I digress.
If you’ve got a picky eater or find yourself on the receiving end of more moans than cheers at the announcement of the dinner menu, try this. Let your child plan the menu for the week with you AND go shopping for it. Give them some input, within reason of course. Chicken or fish on Wednesday? How shall it be cooked? What goes in the salad? Potato or rice? Broccoli or carrots? Try serving fruit with the meal instead of as a dessert. And let them eat it first if they choose. Pull out the good china and stemware. Use the real tablecloth and napkins and ditch the paper. A few tried and true strategies from my dining bag of tricks.
Course the trick really is, always having a new trick at the ready.
I don’t know what the weather is in your part of the world but here in the Northeast USA the month of June (and the first part of July!) should have arrived with a “Build An Ark” theme! Twenty plus days of rain has certainly brought it’s share of gloom and dreariness. The long awaited days of summer fun at the beach, the pool, sitting on the deck after a long day’s work have been woefully few. Getting out of bed is a chore when the sky is gray and the rain pelts the windows. And once you’re up and about, who has much energy for anything? Something about rain calls out for naps, quilts, hot tea, a good book or a chick flick. My grandson has no interest in any of those. Go figure.
We were blessed with a glorious 4th of July weekend so I’m not going to complain..much. It’s just really difficult to keep kids interested in indoor activities when what they really want is to be outdoors after many months spent in classrooms. Video games, which are limited in our home, are only short lived diversions at best. Baking and cooking are fun but if your grandchild is like mine, he’s not interested in helping to make meatloaf; he wants to make cookies! Okay, that’s cool, except my thighs are not appreciative and my will power can only hold up for so long!
So what DO we do? A little of everything. I write or peruse Facebook while he has his allotted WII time. We read, separately and together.
We run a few errands and laugh about who can dash from car to store and be less wet than the other. We look for movies on Direct TV or rummage through DVDs we’ve seen over and over, and watch them yet again. He helps to get dinner ready by stirring or chopping or peeling whatever is needed. If I’m feeling REALLY brave, we’ll invite a friend over to play. Two boys indoors all afternoon can be a challenge for the most seasoned and creative parent! I prefer sunny day play dates, thank you. My creativity is maxed at offering a board game and when rambunctious boys can release that energy outdoors it’s make for a very happy Nana!
The weather man says the sun will come out by tomorrow afternoon. I’m banking on it because I’ve just promised the GP we could make cookies. Oy, my thighs!