This morning the kids had programming (i.e. running around with other kids their age) which meant that Chris and I had some time to ourselves. I think I spent most of mine blogging and sleeping, though I can't really remember. The afternoon we had all planned to hike out to 'Narnia,' which is a pretty spot on the coastline of Lake Huron with plenty of rocks on which to climb around.
We knew the kids would like it but of course as soon as we said, “Trust us, you'll like it.” we got immediate resistance. Mostly from Little Mr. NothingNewPlease. We tried to cover all the angles... How long we'd be out, how far, how we'd get to the trail in the first place, who would be there, etc... but in the end it really didn't matter. As soon as we got there, he picked up a walking stick that someone else had kindly left at the trailhead and proceeded to beat it against every animal, vegetable, or mineral within reach. (I'm guessing just a little pent up frustration...ya think?) Eventually, it escalated and he turned his attention toward his sister. Chris heard her yell 'Stop' several times. In his version, she walked into his blast radius and therefore it was not his fault. Although from the way he was acting, he was clearly feeling guilty about something. Now it wouldn't surprise me at all if his little hot poker sister really was invading his personal space, but this quickly tumbled into the, “You always believe her, I'm not part of this family, I'm always wrong, You don't love me, etc.. etc.. etc...” So I stopped him there on the trail and let everyone else go ahead. We then sat down, I calmed him down and we had a reasonable man to man discussion in which we worked out his feelings. Nah, just kidding. I grabbed his arms and held him until he screamed like a little girl. Then I told him that this was the place where he could scream as much as he wanted to because no one could hear him and he could yell until he felt better. Needless to say with that kind of encouragement, he didn't scream again even after two other hikers tip-toed around us, but we did stand there arm-locked until he cried and eventually concluded that this was even less fun than walking and swinging a stick at his sister.
When we finally got to Narnia, he stayed with Grandma, Grandpa, and me while Chris and Yordanos took a detour to Lost Lake to get some pictures of the elusive carnivorous plants, and then joined up with us later. His sister was out of sight for about 4 seconds when he finally saw the rocks and his smile came out. He then spent the next hour bounding from rock to rock daring me to keep up. And as a final testament to just how much fun it was, he even recovered after slipping into the water so well that Yordi wanted to jump in too.
After all that screaming and fussing, he admitted on the hike back that it was pretty cool.
We have friends who have a running, "And what did you learn?" dialog with their children. They use it to acknowledge good behavior ("I learned that if I clean my room the first time mommy tells me to do it, I get to watch TV longer in the afternoon") and also to nail down exactly when poor choices were made ("I learned that the phrase, 'Make me' might fly with other 4th graders, but never use it again on Daddy.") We've tried similar discussions with our kids but we just get blank stares and end up answering the question ourselves. Chris told the kids after the hike, "Today you learned that you can trust that mommy and daddy won't lead you into the woods just to show you crap. Even if finding wolf poop was actually one of the highlights. That was just a coincidence."
I'm sure C.S.Lewis would be proud...