Yikes. I think every parent has had times where they are sacrificing time, energy and money to do something special, and then feel as though the kids don't even appreciate it. I understand the frustration. I know that their intentions are good, but I have learned that successful outings with four small kidlets depend on more than good intentions. Timing is everything.
That refers to the time of day, of course. For us, mornings are good. Early afternoons are not bad. Late afternoons and evenings...eh, not usually. If I am doing something only marginally fun, like grocery shopping, it is crucial that I hit that sweet spot of after-breakfast-before lunch. Ignoring nap time is just asking for trouble. Goodness, I get cranky when I am tired. Pushing my children beyond their limits is not fair to anyone. Even with fun stuff, they expend an incredible amount of energy, and if they are depleted, it becomes more manic than magical.
Fuel is a must. I confess, I like junk food, and indulge myself and my kids. However, I also know that too much sugar, too many artificial colors, not enough protein, not enough water results in misery. Many of us grew up where special occasions meant candy or ice cream and other sweets. Those memories are sweet in several ways, but balance is important. For our picnic today, I brought homemade sandwiches and fresh blueberries. We also added some not-healthy chips. Oh, well. Even so, I knew that they had real food before we went exploring, and that they weren't going to have a sugar meltdown.
Timing is also everything when it comes to the pace and scope of activity. The biggest key is adjusting your expectations. Fun may not look like you imagined it would. There is no prize for rushing through and saying that you saw every animal at the zoo, or rode the most rides at the amusement park. Let the kidlets set the pace. That may mean an interminably long time watching the ducks, and missing the lions altogether. It may mean chasing leaves for several minutes, or skipping the other side of the park, or watching a caterpillar make it all the way across the sidewalk. It is easier to remember with toddlers, but still important for older kids, too.
If your goal is really to have fun together, you must be present. Pay attention. Put your phone away. Look into their eyes and listen. Join in silliness. Let go of any burdens that are trying to weigh down your thoughts and emotions. Wherever you are, be all there. Kids take their emotional cues from us, which is still more reason to breathe in peace and let go of tension.
|Can't you just see the joy?|
If we are paying attention and not trying to impose an agenda, we will recognize when the fun reaches the saturation point and when to leave. Allowing time to transition from big energy to a relaxing bath or quiet time is important, too.
I am so glad we still have a few more days of Spring Break, and I hope you are having as much fun as we are. <3