Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summer, Why Do You Have to Be So Short?

We've had a busy summer.  I can't believe it's the middle of August and we only have a few days left until school starts.  Wow.

Our carefree days at the beach are winding down and I had to take my kids school clothes shopping.  I need to start thinking about pencils and backpacks and glue sticks.  I can't believe I'm making phone calls already to plan events for the school's welcome back picnic.   How did summer pass us by so fast?

I have so enjoyed having Nicholas home this summer and spending time with my boys at Greenfield Village, the playgrounds and biking around town.  We are out and about most days just finding fun things to do. I know a lot of people like to hang out around home without a schedule, but with two rambunctious, energetic boys, I find it's easier to get out for at least a few hours each day.

I have to admit, though, that my job as entertainment coordinator, picnic packer, band aid supplier, laser-gun finder, sand vacuumer, dirt and grime washer, writing journal prompter, library-book gatherer, bike chain fixer, baseball catcher, and fight breaker-upper (among other things...what have I forgotten?) has taken its toll.  I think summer is so short so we don't take it for granted.

If summer were much longer I might not have as much fun.  I'm exhausted!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Need a Vacation From My Vacation

We just got back from a fun trip to Lake Michigan.  As much as I enjoy getting away every once in awhile, a "vacation" for me is a lot of planning and a lot of work before, during and after the trip.

For starters, there's the trip planning.  Where to go and what to do?  I'm not the kind of person who can wing it on vacation.  I need some sort of plan.  I'm not naive enough to think my plan will go off without a hitch (it never has) but at least I have an outline of things to do and see.  For our trip this summer we decided to go to Michigan's Adventure, bike riding and the beach in Grand Haven and the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum.

After the trip planning (make hotel reservations, buy discount tickets to Michigan's Adventure at Meijer, gather list of things to do in Grand Haven, verify museum admission prices and hours) there's the packing part.  We decided to take our bikes since Christopher is now riding a two-wheeler so I had to remember to pack the bike helmets.  Also, since we were going to the beach I had to remember to pack our bathing suits, beach towels, goggles, the beloved shovel, sunglasses, sunscreen and hats.  Of course this is in addition to our regularly needed items like clothes, underwear, socks, toothbrushes, combs, etc. 

I knew there was a state park in Grand Haven and I happened to see that the library was offering a free one-day state park pass for any state park in Michigan, so I put that on my list of things to do before we left (the park pass is only valid for one week).  We decided to pack lunches for the trip so I made PB&J sandwiches, grabbed some apples and veggie sticks and threw in some granola bars (Blueberry for Nicholas, Strawberry for Christopher).  I also remembered to pack the DVD player for the car (don't forget Fox &Hound DVD!) and grab the blankets from the boys' beds so they could get all cozy and comfortable while watching their movies in the car. 

What am I forgetting?  I am constantly asking myself, what am I forgetting?

Once on the road I feel like I can breath a sigh of relief.  We are on the way!  When we get to our hotel, the first thing I hear is "so, what's on the agenda?  What are we going to do?"  I feel like Julie McCoy, the cruise director on The Love Boat, who sole purpose in life was to make sure everyone was having a good time.  I have my handy-dandy list of things to do, so I suggest we go into town and grab a bite to eat, maybe walk around a little.  But, all the boys want to do is swim in the hotel swimming pool.  We have a multitude of choices and they want to swim in the hotel swimming pool.  We compromise by saying we will go out for a bit and come back later to swim.

The rest of the weekend went pretty well.  We managed to do and see everything we set out to do and see amid constant questions of "what are we going to do now?" and "what time does this open or close?" or "where are we going to eat?" The entertainment coordinator job is a never-ending one!

We had a blast at Michigan's Adventure, although I won't go back until Christopher is tall enough to ride everything.  I really don't want to spend any more time with Christopher in the water park wading pool while Mark and Nicholas go on the water slides.  Mark and I switched kids after awhile and I managed to talk Nicholas into riding the Funnel of Fear with me which is shocking since it was listed on a scale of 1-to-5 as a 5 which means, "Agressive Thrill" ride.  Neither of my boys has an affinity for roller coasters or any ride with any kind of large drop.  So, I give him kudos for riding with me. He was scared, but he did it.  In the future if my boys don't outgrow their fear of roller coasters or heights I may need to rent some kids to go on rides with me at the amusement parks because my husband doesn't like roller coasters either.

Riding bikes along the boardwalk in Grand Haven was great.  Christopher kept up like champ.  Lake Michigan was awesome and we had a fun-filled day at the beach .  I spent my summers swimming in the ocean in Cape May, New Jersey but I gotta say the waves on the lake could definitely compete with the waves in the ocean.  Plus, we didn't have to worry about stinging saltwater, jellyfish or sharks!  The boys spent the entire day in the water.  We were pooped by the time we got back to our hotel.

"Have you seen my sunglasses?" my husband asked.  "Mom, where's my Power Ranger?"  UGH!  How is it that I'm responsible for everyone's stuff?  After awhile I just said, "I'm not in charge of the sunglasses or water bottles or toys."  If they get lost, they get lost.  I can't keep track of everything!

The naval museum was incredible.  We got to tour a real WWII submarine, the USS Silversides, which sank 23 ships and damaged 14 during her service. She ranks third highest among all World War II U.S. submarines in ships sunk, totaling 90,080 tons. The Silversides is the nation's most famous surviving submarine.  The museum itself was an amazing collection of WWII exhibits.  I would love to go back again.

I was definitely tired after our trip.  We accomplished a lot and had a great time, but after getting home and unpacking everything I packed, putting everything back in its place, getting the car cleaned out and doing laundry, I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation!

Anyone who has ever traveled with kids knows that it's challenging.  And frustrating.  And tiring.  But, I will do it all again and again and again because this is what my kids' memories are made of.  When they say, "mom, remember when we were on vacation and we walked on that pier and saw that cool lighthouse?" or "remember when I ate perch for the first time at that restaurant on the marina?"  I won't remember the frustrations.  I will remember, like they do, the great time we had together as a family.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

How Much Help is Too Much...Or Not Enough?

I continuously struggle with the notion of how much "help" I should provide my kids knowing full well they are capable of doing some things on their own.  When do I step in and offer assistance and when do I let them figure it out on their own?

I was at the park the other day when Nicholas starting climbing the monkey bars.  He got stuck in a spot and shouted for me to help him.  He wasn't that far off the ground so I said, "Just let go.  You can fall to the ground."  He kept yelling for my help and I kept telling him to just drop to the ground.  He was much closer to the ground than he thought he was, but he decided to work his way around the bars back to the play structure base instead of dropping.  Nicholas snorted like a mad bull and his pursed lips and lowered eyebrows clearly let me know that he was not happy with my decision not to assist him.  If his eyes could shoot out fire blasts he would have singed a gaping hole right through me.   

I felt a little guilty.  Oops.  Maybe I should have helped him?  Maybe I'm a rotten mother who would rather sit on a park bench and chat with my friend than help my son figure out how to maneuver the monkey bars.  Well, before you think I'm the worst parent in the world, consider that Nicholas has maneuvered these monkey bars numerous times before.  Consider that he is capable of dropping to the ground from these monkey bars as he's demonstrated numerous times before.  Consider that Nicholas loves to blame me when things don't go his way.

I'm at a tricky stage of motherhood where I need to allow my children to be the independent beings I've nurtured without racing in to provide help at every turn.  They need to make choices and learn about the consequences of those choices, good or bad. We all have to make those choices on our own, eventually.  I will help with the moral choices or the choices that present new challenges, but I'm not helping a 7-year-old drop to the ground from monkey bars he's conquered before.  He made the choice to work his way back to the platform instead.  The point is, he evaluated his options and he made the choice.  

Nicholas likes to blame me when he doesn't get his homework done or when he doesn't finish a project he started.  He doesn't like to make mistakes (I can't imagine where he got that from) so instead of owning up to doing something incorrectly, he stops trying altogether and blames me for not finishing.  I know that I can't help him if my help prevents him from ever trying it on his own and making his own mistakes.  That's how we learn.  We make mistakes and figure how to do it better or different the next time.   It's hard for me because as much as I want to help, I can't.  He needs to learn his own capabilities by stretching out of his comfort zone every once in awhile.

Part of making our own choices is dealing with the consequences of those choices.  Part of dealing with the consequences of our choices is learning not to blame other people if things don't go our way. As I said before, I will help with choices that present new challenges.  Like whether or not to tell a friend that another friend said something derogatory about him.   Nicholas chose to tell his friend about the derogatory statement thinking that his friend had a right to know what was being said about him.  I told Nicholas I didn't think that was a good idea because the only purpose it served was to make his friend feel bad about the derogatory statement.  The friend would never have known about the derogatory statement if Nicholas didn't tell him.  Nicholas asked me if what he did was "bad" and I said it's not "bad," it just wasn't a good choice.  A good choice would have been to tell the friend who uttered the derogatory statement that it wasn't nice or, better yet, ignore the comment altogether because it had nothing to do with him.

I explained that the consequences of sharing conversation details with someone who wasn't present for said conversation would be 1) his friends think he's a tattletale and 2) he can't be trusted with information.  Whatever issues his friends have with each other is none of his business.  He can be friends with other friends who don't like each other and respect each friend's privacy when it come to sharing details of conversations.  As in, don't share those details. Boy that's a hard lesson because even some adults have a hard time exercising restraint when it comes to sharing useless or harmful information.  

My heart aches each time I see my kids struggling with a problem, whether it's one they can figure out on their own or not.  I've been down these roads before.  I can see the outcome clearly.  They can't.  But, they have to learn, just like I did (and have and continue to do) that we have to take responsibility for our own actions.  I wish I could step in at every turn and help my kids with all of their problems.  But that doesn't produce responsible adults and I look forward to my kids turning into responsible adults.

Even if it means enduring the snorting bull whose glare shoots scorching, hot fire blasts.  Ouch.

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