“Visiting my mother – To get the boys away from their negative/ destructive routines and habits and address some of their physical and mental health issues…Day 6”
Today was probably one of my most challenging days of parenting – but I learned so much (and will probably need to expound upon this when I am not so tired!)
Charlie – our 6 year-old – is a “runner” he needs to run, he lives to run, if given the chance I imagine he will become an Olympic athlete (sport yet-to-be-determined.) That said, parenting him needs to include high energy extended opportunities to run outside. In the absence of these opportunities he seems like a nightmare child, in the presence of these opportunities he is an angel – happy, positive, chatty, upbeat and friendly.
How do you keep up with a child who needs this kind of stimulation and ability to roam? How do you keep a child like this safe (at this age – when consequences of one’s actions are not yet really a consideration?) yet give him the freedom and space he needs?
Travel journal (will flesh out more later, this is really for me and my family – but I am sharing here too)…
Today is day 6 of a 21-day adventure during which we are doing new things to try to help meet the unusual needs (for health and wellness) of our two youngest (and two most challenging) children.
The morning started out with refusal to eat breakfast by Charlie (normal behavior for him, he’s just not a morning person – Avi actually ate breakfast though!) and then a trip to the hardware store to pick up a few things for our day – including a little surprise for Granny for later.
Charlie then had a screaming fit at the hardware store. He threw himself on the ground and refused to budge if I did not buy him some trashy (2/ $1.50 bags) candy from the check-out lane. Luckily Avi (older brother – almost 10) found a cool alternative item to purchase as a “treat”… magnifying glasses (with handles – like in the movie Antz!) were on sale – (the kind you think of for kids to use for looking at bugs) in all different sizes for just $1.25 each. So we managed to avoid candy and get out of the store with four new magnifying glasses – one of each size.
From there we went to the beach. There’s a great little calm sheltered beach with two man-made pools near my mother’s house and we’ve been there several times already since we arrived. My commitment is that Avi (who has severe plaque psoriasis each winter) spend one hour in the salt water swimming in the morning and one hour in the evening (avoiding the mid-day sun and subsequent sunburn… don’t get me started on what it is like to have a Sensory Processing Disorder kiddo with a sunburn! AAAAGH – the screaming!)
This beach is very safe (protected from surf and crashing waves) but fun and interesting because it has crabs and fish from the real world – so it’s a bit of a mini snorkel adventure.
The boys managed to have some healthy snacks (handfuls of organic baby carrots [I make each of them eat their age plus one in baby carrots if they are going to have a less-healthy snack afterwards – like cheese], cheese sticks and chips) and play relatively harmoniously in the pools for a good 90 minutes. During this time Avi said to me that he came to a realization that he did not need to fight with Charlie, that he could just ignore that Charlie wants to fight with him and not participate (this was great – even if not a fully applied realization throughout the rest of the day!) as this is what I talk to them about each and every day!) – and then we were off to the nearby playground for another two hours (a playground that was designed by the local children – so it is especially engaging!)… so a very active morning..
After some more snacks (pistachios, apples, more carrots, water & bars) and a round of changing clothes (because “this is wet! I can’t wear it” or “This is uncomfortable – my back itches” or “I want LONG sleeves, not short sleeves” or “You can’t MAKE me wear underwear!”) it was already 1 p.m. and since we wanted to stay away from the hottest part of the day we decided to go on an adventure and head north.
We got in the car and went and filled the tank with gas and the screams of “I’m starving! I need food! NOW” started in pretty quickly… so I promised them “shave ice” if they would be good and patient until we got somewhere interesting – and if they ate some “real food” first!
The lure of a town alluded to in “Puff the Magic Dragon” and nearby caves (where dragons may have lived) was very interesting to two little boys – so we found our way there and lucked out and found an organic/ natural grocery store there too. [On the way there, Charlie’s (tentative/preliminary) diagnosis of ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) reared it’s “lovely” head… His quote for the day: “Mom, I am going to have THREE kids when I grow up and I know what I am going to name them… Shit, Fuck and Bitch.” Following this declaration the three of us had a stimulating conversation, about what it would be like to have these names… We talked about the fact that if he liked these names so much, he could change HIS name to one of those names. He responded by saying he could not have one of those names because then he could not name his child that. I explained that he could – and they would just be “F _ _ _ Junior.” He said he did not want his name to be that – that he wouldn’t like that. We then talked about how – if he did not want his name to be that – how might his children feel if they had those names?…]
Back at the grocery store…
…The kids got their favorite natural organic snacks (ones they are used to getting at home!) and we also got Avi some probiotics (that he usually has at home) since they really help with his psoriasis and I thought it would be good to have a double-whammy to try to help him get better.
We sat on the steps of the grocery store (in the shade) and ate our lunch. When I pulled out the fish salad (like tuna salad but with local fish) that I had bought… both kids (both scent sensitive) screamed at the top of their lungs that they couldn’t be anywhere near me while I ate that and HOW DARE I open that in their presence! They both ran over to another set of stairs (as far away as they could get from me) to continue eating their snacks – while I ate my fish salad in peace! After that was in the trash I rejoined them – and “forced” them to eat a predetermined number of spoonfuls of organic plain (unsweetened/ unflavored) yogurt before we moved on to the shave ice part of the day. Charlie actually likes the plain yogurt! Avi had a massive fit that it had no flavor and was too sour and he refused to eat more than two bites.
Then on to the shave ice store. Reluctantly I got them shave ice with the stated promise that I WILL NEVER GET IT AGAIN – ever – so they had better enjoy it this once. So many considerations! Crappy vanilla ice-cream – with ice on top covered in artificial flavors and colors of course – but wait, there’s more! When I was visiting a family in New Hampshire a few months ago they had a “genuine” “authentic” Hawaiian shave ice machine – brand new – in their home. I tested it it and found VERY HIGH LEVELS of LEAD! This Shave Ice guy had the exact same machine that I had tested in New Hampshire! I was so creeped out by it (that he was using this machine), and really did not want to give my kids this shave ice ever again for so many reasons – but that cemented it.
After the shave ice “incident” (Avi felt sick afterwards – further ammunition for not ever letting them have it again) we went to the caves and the beach.
Fun, lots of fun – although Charlie still does not know how to be cautious of large waves and he is not yet a swimmer so I am overly helicoptery when it comes to beaches with waves and Charlie and I have a hard time enjoying it – or letting the kids enjoy it.
From there we went to “the end of the road” (as in – that’s it – can’t go any further.) We saw one more cave – looked at the beach and took some pictures and read the signs (as part of the “educational” part of every day – when I can I read all of the history and other signs at parks and give the kids rewards for answering questions as I read to them – to make sure they are listening [today it was 25 cents per correct answer!]) and were planning on heading back towards home/ finding a sheltered beach cove and getting in a second hour of swimming… after-all it was just after 5:00 pm and sunset was fast-approaching….
Instead Charlie decided (after the history lesson reading all the park signage about the history of the area and the native peoples and the geography and the fact that there were waterfalls nearby) that he wanted to go for a run and find a waterfall.
He took off – up up up and away – up a mountain!
The thing is… I cannot keep up with him…very few people can… he is SUPER-FAST!
So I asked Avi to sit on the trail side and wait for me (none of us were dressed for hiking, we had on sandals and flip flops and I had left the water bottles in the car – and – on top of all of that – Avi is not a hiker anyway) and I hiked up up and away after Charlie – pacing myself and hoping he would head down the mountain soon, and – every few minutes – sending messages down to Avi with hikers headed down — so he would know I was okay and would be back with Charlie soon.
Soon I ran into Charlie heading down – with “Kirsten from Cincinnati” (he decided he did not want to go up any farther without me, thank god!)- he was chatting her up, telling her stories and jokes – and we headed back down the trail together and reconnected with Avi and got in the car.. 6:30 p.m. – and that’s a wrap folks…
By the time we got home to my mother’s house Charlie was fast asleep in the car and Avi was hungry – I carried Charlie up to “bed” (he’s “camping” outside on the porch tonight!) and Avi was anxious to have some mama-only time (watching part of an episode of Psych – one of his favorite T.V. shows.)
My end thought for the day… Charlie had the best day ever! He was super happy, engaged and positive. He’s sleeping like a baby right now as a result.
How can I create this for him in the future? Where could we live that he could have this kind of experience (at least the positive elements of it) every day?
I felt I needed to ‘punish” him for running off – but I also did not want to discourage him from being athletic and following his dreams of hiking, climbing and running (when I was his age I would go off alone into the canyon behind my home and hike and climb and build forts for HOURS!) So when we got down the mountain and were safely reunited with Avi, I sat Charlie on a picnic table and gave him a hug and told him I wanted to talk to him.
Instead – the first words out of my mouth were… “Charlie, I want you to know you are an AMAZING hiker! I am SO proud of you for being safe and climbing a mountain.” I then followed up with a conversation about the importance of listening to your parents, doing what they say, and not running off. I also explained how what he did was dangerous (especially since I can’t physically keep up with him) and that we needed to talk about ways we could do this again that would NOT be dangerous. We discussed (between the three of us) how we could we have this same adventure in the future and be safe…. backpacks, water bottles, hiking boots, flashlights, snacks, a plan if we get separated – that sort of thing! [BTW – all the hikers that I passed going up while they were coming down said that I had “taught him well” as he refused to talk to (apparently almost all) strangers on the path! Argh! #SmallVictories!]
The big question is… how can I create a childhood for him that is one of positive engaging energetic experiences (like his experience of his hike today) within the confines of needing to work and learn (traditional school) and that sort of thing? I’m working on that. [Today I was able to work most of the time we were at the beach and playground… so that’s a good start… my “mobile office” as it were! But not everything I do can be done with kids underfoot.]
Part of the answer is obvious to me – that I need to be a stay-at-home mom and home-school my kiddos, as no one knows them better than I do or can teach them better than I can (or will have the patience with them that I do!) This is a big issue as I have been the primary breadwinner in my family for so long now, I don’t yet know how we can make that shift – I don’t have the energy to work 20 hour days like I used to! (10 with the kids and 10 for work/work!)
We’ll see how much energy I can muster for them tomorrow.
My feet are burning right now! (10:53 pm!)