Adventures In Practice Parenting: Dinosaurs And Redirection

Saturday was a fun day albeit an exhausting one, but that was more about pileup than the day itself. Thursday I had my blood treatment and it didn’t go so well, namely my body decided it didn’t want to give any blood when it really, really needed to. After a few attempts they took what they needed and my body was done, ready for its required 48 hours of ‘do nothing’. Of course, here was my version of do nothing: Thursday evening, have dinner with Roy’s parents (who were visiting from Florida) and our niece and nephew (twins) who will be three this July. That involved some toddler wrangling and a trip to the grocery store with said toddlers. I had Finn, (Roy had Kaylie) which meant there was a lot of jumping and carrying involved. Friday, Roy’s uncle was flying in and staying the night so I decided it was the perfect opportunity for Spring Cleaning. Our house wasn’t really dirty, or even untidy, but I wanted to go all out. So that meant aside from everything being put away, vacuuming, dusting, mopping, sweeping, windows, every closet including our storage room cleaned out, drawers and cupboards organized, etc. I mean we have lived here two-and-a-half years and this was the first time his uncle had visited. And before you wonder why I put such a feat off, I found out Roy’s uncle was coming Thursday night. (His family is not really full of planners – understatement – so you just have to roll with it. But for all of you non-planners out there please note, not having things planned in advance or some kind of idea of what is going on is just as exhausting for planners as a tight schedule is for you. So be kind, and take turns.)

By Saturday, my body was ready for a full-blown strike, or you would think it would be, but I was too excited. We were setting off for Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, Colorado, about a thirty minute drive for us. By ‘we’ I mean Roy, his mom and dad, his Uncle David, his brother David (yep) and David’s little ones, the infinitely adorable Finn and Kaylie. Roy and I had been there this past January and were telling his uncle about it, which quickly became a planned destination immediately following an impromptu breakfast at a place neither of us like, but Roy’s brother and his family loves. (I point this out, because we went on this adventure with little in our stomachs.) The ridge is a long uphill trail where you can see all kinds of dinosaur tracks and fossils (to learn more about this exciting place see: http://www.dinoridge.org/dinotrail.html). Now I am a not-so-closeted nerd who loves Dinosaurs (I was obsessed as a child, and would read everything I could find about them). So you take a family outing, TWINS, a good hike (I am a walker, it helps me clear my head) a beautiful day, TWINS, real dinosaur sites including preserved footprints and other fossils, an educational experience, (did I mention TWINS!) and I am a very happy camper. (Roy’s mother texted us once we got home, saying she was exhausted and yet we were the two handling the twins. I told her they were the best part – no offense to everyone else, but totally true.)

dino_ridge

Aside from loving kids and being around them, and loving Finn and Kaylie beyond just them being kids, I always look at my time with them as parenting practice. I know it doesn’t come close to the real thing (we get to go home after all), but it exhilarates me and fills me with such joy and warmth and fulfillment, more than anything else I have accomplished before – and I’m not even their parent! Wednesday night I crunched the numbers again in vain, as if hoping they had changed or I missed something. I let the reality of having biological kids sink in. If we got a home equity loan and Roy hits his ceiling in his business (in terms of financial success) and I get a six-figure book deal then perhaps we can have a child within five years… maybe. I’ll admit I held onto that thought for the night, and it ate at me and when Roy confronted me about what was wrong, and I told him we both teared up. I focus on that it will happen and so does he, but the numbers suck and are scary when you don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars just sitting around, waiting to make your dreams of a family come true. Until the day comes when we become parents, I bask in my time with the twins.

Saturday they were good, but they are still two and went without a nap with a very busy day full of activity and more people than they are used to. So a good day didn’t come without tantrums. I know it seems silly, but I almost prefer these less pleasant experiences to the ones where they fall asleep in your arms and your heart melts. These are the challenging times, and it is through challenges I actually get to practice being a parent. For me, I am all about redirection. I know some people can’t seem to pull it off (my husband being one of them haha) because it isn’t just about what you are redirecting the child to, but your voice, tone, delivery: it is a sales pitch and two-year-olds are tough sells. I practiced a lot of redirection yesterday, even Roy commented on it as we drove home sans twins.

My favorite two redirections of the day were…

Kaylie was trying to run up the trail while everyone else had stopped to rest. Finn was with his dad, Roy’s uncle and parents below us (it was a tiered footprint site that we are at, at that point). Roy ran after her and I had an idea. “Kaylie,” I called. But she was busy trying to escape Roy, on the verge of a meltdown if he didn’t let her pass. I walked up to them and kneeled down so I was facing Kaylie. “Hey Kaylie, do you want to see something really funny?” I said in an excited voice. She looked skeptical and I pointed to where I had been standing. “It’s right over there, want to see it?”

She got excited and started running in that direction. I followed, I knew better than to try to hold her hand – she is in this independent woman stage and I love it. She is protective of her older brother (Finn is the older twin) and is very bright and has to do her own chores and other things on her own – she doesn’t want any help. She is going to be an acrobatic explorer putting boys in their place, pushing limits and breaking stereotypes – you can’t imagine how proud that makes me, but I digress… I arrived at the spot a few seconds after she did. She looked around and I kneeled down again and put my finger to my lips. “Are you ready to see something really funny? We have to be quiet.” I said in conspirator’s voice. I picked her up and let her peer over the ledge of the landing we were one. Directly below us were Roy’s parents and uncle. She laughed and I said, “Ready Kaylie? One, two, three!”

“Hi Grandma! Hi Papa!” she yelled between fits of laughter. Then I pointed out Finn and David (Roy’s brother, not the uncle) and she did the same thing. Of course, then Finn had to have his turn and it was a great time that allowed everyone else to rest up before we continued on the trail.

Then on the way back, Finn wasn’t very excited to be going downhill. He knew we just turned around and he had already seen everything. So, to make it interesting, he laid down on the concrete and belly crawled rather than walked. This slowed us down and the others were anxious for rest, water, bathrooms and hopefully lunch (it was nearly 2:00pm). Roy and Finn were having it out about him walking. “Finn, you need to stand up and walk like a big boy or I am going to carry you.”

Finn’s retort, a violent shaking of his head, saying no. Roy went to pick him and up his face instantly turned red and he started to cry (he gets much more ‘tired’ than his sister or at least it seems to affect his behavior more). I went back to them (I had been with Kaylie and Roy’s brother) and got down on the ground, motioning for Roy to let Finn be. “Hey Finn, did you know that meat-eating dinosaurs walked on two legs?” he looked at me, curious. “Do you want to be a dinosaur?” The same rigorous nod, only this time in the affirmative. I reached out my hand, “Come on. Let’s go be dinosaurs.”

Finn took my hand, stood up and walked the rest of the way proudly. I asked him what the name of his dinosaur was and never did get a straight answer, but when I asked him what type of dinosaur he was, he responded, “RAR!”

I don’t think redirection always works because there isn’t anything out there that always works. Always is a strong word, and one that isn’t kid-friendly. But I do strongly believe it is the first go-to and is surprisingly successful much of the time depending on the child and the ‘redirector’. Yesterday was all about redirection and each time it worked gave me a little high (and yes sometimes it didn’t, and I had to be the no-fun Michael who picked up one of the twins because they wouldn’t stop doing what they shouldn’t be doing). If only parenting were that easy…

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With my friends I have always been in the ‘mother hen’ role. It is not something I seek out or try to be, but just happens naturally. I have never really had parents. There is my father who was never there (best case) and when he was it only led to hurtful verbalizations and unproductive and toxic attitudes and then there is my mother who is crazy. I know you think everyone says that about their parents, but I mean the violent, unstable and more importantly unsafe kind of crazy. I raised my siblings out of necessity. I protected them, sheltered them and encouraged them, hoping I was doing a good enough job of shielding them from my parents. I don’t know why I crave a family of my own so badly when never grew up with one.

I’m never tired after I am with the twins. It is almost as if they get my adrenaline going (not really, but it is similar) and when I leave them, rather than being exhausted I already am thinking about the next time I’ll see them and rehashing the best moments of that last visit. I don’t mind the unpleasant times or bad behavior because it reminds me of the real deal. When we have kids, it will be 24/7 and they will turn our more or less orderly lives upside down. I am terrified of being a horrible parent, or make some mistake that I can’t undo and question, “Am I ready for this? Are we ready for this?” But I don’t think anyone, no matter how much planning or money is involved, is ever 100% ready. And if they claim to be, they’re lying. But there comes a time when you know whether you’re not ready to commit or whether this is just the normal kind of nervousness because you want your kids to have a much better life you do (no matter how wonderful your own life has been). For us it is certainly the latter.

I know my experiences to date will be nothing like having kids of our own. There will be countless stains (clothes, furniture and carpeting), sleepless nights, runny noses, illnesses, injuries that are normal but will make me feel like the worst parent in the world, gross things I can’t even conjure up in my mind now, constant worrying and wondering how I am going to make something work with (however many little ones we have at the time) in tow. I will be exhausted, stressed, pushed to my limits, praying for sleep or sanity and knowing my life is consumed with providing for someone else, forever trumping my own wants, needs, and plans. Is it strange that I can’t wait?

-DMW

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