Spending a full day with preschoolers is kind of like doing a 100-mile bike ride (aside from the lack of health benefits). When you ride your bike for 100 miles, no individual mile is really much more difficult or easy than another. But, over time, you realize its wearing on you, and if you don’t keep your head in the game it will get ugly and you might die. In my world today, that wear came about 3:45 and from that point on I was focused on making it to the end. Fingers crossed, today is over.
It was one of those days – just a long bike ride type parenting day.
Around 10 this morning, the kids and I left the house to go to the grocery store. It was at this point that I realized how large they both are, when I put them into one shopping cart while also attempting to put groceries in said shopping cart. I had to convince my three year old that the food in the cart wasn’t yet up for grabs. Then my son, age 4, saw the Hot Wheels. And we had to get one. For each. Thankfully, Hot Wheels are simultaneously the coolest and cheapest toys on the planet, so this wasn’t a big deal.
Our next stop was the Post Office, which is definitely the place where all the people who love preschoolers go to spend their time…especially preschoolers with new Hot Wheels and flat surfaces! I was on high alert the entire time, but the kids were generally good and mostly quiet and we made it out alive and undaunted. WIN!
After lunch and naps, we had about an hour to kill before going over to some friends’ house for awhile. This is when the motif of the day really set in. My daughter somehow stole two gummy vitamin bears and started eating them without me noticing. She’s sneaky like that. I asked her what she had in her mouth, and she told me (something that four year olds are less likely to do). So, she went to time out number one for the day. She apologized, I forgave her, and we moved on.
When we got back home after being at our friends’ house, I noticed that my son was hiding something behind his back (he’s really not very good at being sneaky). I asked him what it was, identified its color, and asked him to show me. It was a coaster from our friends’ house. A nice coaster (in my estimation at least…it wasn’t a Wal-Mart coaster which is my standard). He stole a stinking coaster. I talked with him about stealing, told him that we would be taking it back and apologizing this evening, and he went to his room.
While we waited for the pizza to bake in the oven for dinner, the kids both decided to start spitting water on things. Real cool guys. Real cool. Realizing the parenting/supervisory oversight (by now feeling like I’m at about mile 80 of 100), I told them to ‘knock it off’, and then sent them to their second time-outs for the day. I told them never to spit water in the house. I think I may have referred to them as mongrols. Thankfully, even I don’t know what a mongrol is, nor do I know how to spell it.
My finicky eater son actually ate two pieces of frozen pizza (his previous record was zero bites of frozen pizza), despite taking issue with seeing sauce on it. Not the taste of the sauce…the sight of the sauce. I take no credit for this anomaly.
At this point, it was time to head back over to our friends’ house and give them back the coaster, and force my child to say the most difficult word in the English language (for kids and adults): “Sorry”. So, we did. We took the coaster, piled back into the car (in pajamas), and I took my son to face his destiny. I had told him that they knew he had taken it (which was true) and that they weren’t mad about it (which was also true (it’s usually more effective than lying)). We stood outside the house, in the doorway, facing off with my friends.
Not a word.
I whispered an alternative punishment into my son’s ear in an attempt to motivate him to say “Sorry”. No luck. So, now not only did he steal my joy of being the baddest-ass dad in the world by not apologizing, now he made life difficult for tomorrow because I can’t make an empty threat.
I was so frustrated I just wanted to walk away from today. Just leave the kids in the car and walk away. Knowing that this wasn’t possible, for some reason I decided today would be a good day to start a Family Examen.
I asked them to name two good things that happened today: We went to the store together (G); we ate together (G); we went to the museum (O(not true, but would have been good)); we played with cars (O); they both ate their pizza (me (lame, but good)); we had a good time at our friends’ house (me). Then I asked them to name something bad that happened today: Nothing (G); I’m too scared! (O); them spitting water on things in the house (me (Guinevere apologized again)).
I then reviewed the day, trying to point out what we learned today. I told them that it is super important that we notice how God is interacting with us every day in good and bad things, and in big and small ways. I was telling myself, actually. It’s easy to feel like a total dirtbag as a parent after a long day. We do well to step back, recognize the good things (however small) and the bad thing (however big) and learn to thank God for being a part of it all.