With the school holidays over, I have taken some time to reflect on what we did, why we did it and more importantly, how we all dealt with it.
And, while the majority of it was awesome, I did find a bit of a theme when it came to our family fun days out.
Here's the scenario:
It’s been a long day at the museum/gallery/show/festival/event. It was warm, we did a lot of waiting, we didn't drink any water and we consumed way too much sugar.
Then the whining starts as we're finally leaving, “It’s too far. I’m tired…”.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Then the kids bicker about nonsense in the back seat. They demand fast food for dinner. The youngest starts to cry. You've got a backache from lugging everyone's stuff around all day.
You’ve held it together up until this point, but you can feel the anger rising.
“Do you kids have any idea how much money we spent on today so we could have a nice time together as a family? That's it. I’m never taking you anywhere fun again! You are so ungrateful!”
All you wanted was to spend a nice day as a family. But, nothing ever turns out like you plan.
“Why can’t my kids just be thankful for what they get!?”
I wanted to know the answer so I reflected upon what their problem was.
It turns out, they had several.
But none of them were their fault in any way.
Here's what I found they had in common at the end of almost every outing:
Exhaustion: Long days sap your energy. Especially when you're using lots up just with the excitement. And often, the kids stayed up way too late because they couldn't sleep with anticipation. Which is not a great start.
Poor Diet: Washing down mountains of fairy floss, ice-cream and chips with soft drink is always going to lead to a sugar crash followed by sluggishness, headaches and irritability. Plus, if we were in a hot or busy environment, the kids ended up dehydrated.
Overstimulation: People, music, sounds, smells and crowded spaces can all lead to sensory overload for most children. Adults too. Combine this with the fact that we're from a small town in the country and it's no wonder the kids were lost in their own minds. And if your brain can't process, you get angry.
Lack of Connection: In retrospect, sometimes being together doesn't mean you are connecting. I can see now how that, in the midst of chaos, there were times when the kids we just longing for our undivided attention. A few minutes of down time together needs to be worked into our days.
Break from Routine: Our kids rely heavily on the schedule of a typical day and breaking this routine, even for something fun, can lead to challenges.
Difficulty with Transitions: It’s not easy to leave an exciting activity and like all kids, ours are still learning to communicate their mixed feelings, and disappointment about the day coming to a close.
Reserves are Depleted: Just like us, the kids have worked hard to hold it together, manage waves of big feelings, and make it out of the public eye before melting down. By the time we say its over, these kids are DONE and do not have the ability to regulate their emotions anymore today.
Weight of Expectation: Perhaps the biggest one. What are my kids? They're kids. But how do i expect them to act? Like adults. That's never going to end well.
So why are my kids so ungrateful? They're not.