Monday, February 04, 2013


Three-year-olds are a funny breed. Monday through Friday, the house is mostly empty during school hours. Ainsley flits seamlessly from one activity to another -- making tea, playing with her dolls, hanging our in her Dora tent. She finds me when she wants me to read a book or get out the paints or simply chat. She's content for the most part.

When everyone is in residence, boy, she seems to pull out all the stops.

Saturday came and Dave and I decided to tackle a few maintenance jobs, jobs that involved pulling out the refrigerator and the dishwasher, in short, throwing the entire kitchen and dining room into a state of tumult. We could have knocked it out in short order but for Ainsley who was either a) pestering the fool out of John or b) dumping something -- anything -- that we had pulled off the top of the fridge, or c) clambering over the tool box and around the shop vac trying to scrounge another cookie.

I like to hold on to the belief that in some small part I'm getting older and wiser (I fairly confident about the older part). And I know from past experience and a quick browse through my blog archives that Parenting While Distracted isn't pretty.

Now there's a time to push through. When you're ten hours into a fifteen hour drive and everyone's bored to tears and bedtime isn't even close and the all you hear is John spilled his chocolate milk! I dropped my crayon! Are we there yet?, you just keep driving. You dole out a few more snacks, crank up an Adventure in Odyssey, and locate a coloring book or two, but, above all, you press on. Around the house, too, kids need to learn that they are not the center of the universe and that Mom and Dad are sometimes busy and that they'd best find something to do.

Saturday all I saw was mounting frustration and interruptions and frayed nerves, and I began to consider whether to Push Through or Reboot.

If Tim and I get off to bad start in the morning, he has a sweet way of putting his arm around me and saying, "Mom, let's reboot." Usually we are able to do just that. Start over. Take it from the top once more.

Friday night I managed to hit Control Alt Delete on a disappointing evening. I had planned on a quiet family night watching a movie and devouring the birthday cake we had been too stuffed to tuck into on Thursday. Tim was at out of town basketball game. Kolbe ended up going off with family friends. Dave had to go back into his office. So much for family night. Dave called around eight. I groused and whined and ended up calling him back later to say that I had decided to quit pouting and instead see this as an unexpected opportunity to spend alone time with the little people.

I hit reboot.

Of course by the time I rebooted, the hour was getting late. We didn't pop popcorn and sit in a tent reading stories by flashlight. We didn't make a memory. We didn't do anything exceptional  I planted myself on the couch, and John and Ainsley fell asleep on my lap as I watched Foyle's War.

But I quit pouting, and we had a little snuggly time.

And then came Saturday. Do we Push Through or Reboot?

I considered my options and weighed how successful those options were likely to be. I could:

1. Consign the little people to the back yard loosely supervised from the back window. 
Yield: 30 minutes tops. Threat of interruption: High.

2. Consign the little people to the backyard and impress an unpaid older sibling into babysitting.

Yield: 60 minutes. Threat of interruption: Medium (if I entreat the boys to try hard) to Low (if I threaten the loss of screen time).

3. Consign the little people to the backyard and impress a paid older sibling into babysitting.

Yield: 2 hours. Threat of interruption: Low (My boys will do a whole lot if cash is involved).
Instead I turned to a fourth option: Impress an older sibling into service as Dad's apprentice and take the little people some place interesting. We loaded up the van and off we went to hike through the woods at a nearby swamp.

I've had moments in January in Detroit and in July in Augusta, moments when I've pondered why-oh-why any poor settler, long before the age of central heat and air, settled these inhospitable climates. No doubt, they rolled into Michigan in June and into Georgia on a day like Saturday. Bright blue skies and about 58 degrees. Beautiful.

We enjoyed an hour long walk through woods and grassy fields interrupted only by Ainsley's occasional wail when John would run ahead of her.

"I'm the line leader. I am the Line Leader! I AM THE LINE LEADER!," she bellowed. Note to all pre-school teachers: You give a three-year-old girl a taste of authority, and she morphs into Napoleon.

The rest of the time I spent listening to birds, looking for turtles, and appreciating conversation unique to small children.

"I haven't heard the word Mug come out of my mouth for a long time," John informed me. "You know, Grandma's basement is the betterest."

Meanwhile Ainsley was looking to the future. "When I grow up and turn into a mama," she wondered, "will you be the little girl?"

"No, sweetie" I told her. "I get to be the Grandma." This was a little too much for her to take in.

We came upon no turtles, no snakes, no alligators, but walked right up on an Armadillo grubbing for roots. Toward the end of our hike, John and Ainsley began to flag and lay prostrate on the path a few times. But all in all, it was a lovely day, an enjoyable walk, and a sweet reminder of how precious little children are.

A successful reboot.

We arrived home to find the job done and the refrigerator back in place. John and Ainsley ran out back to play.


Kris said...

You get a Mommy Gold Star! Sometimes, I get too focused on getting my own list accomplished and crossed off, and I forget to think outside the box.

Kelly said...

I'll take the Gold Star! It's hard to think out of the box when the box is big and messy and screams for attention.