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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Despite the Whining, a Lovely Day with my Kids...

Watching the interaction between my children is a never-ending learning experience.

Last weekend, my wife was away at a retreat and I was playing Mr. Mom. In all honesty, I look forward the times I get to spend the weekend with the kids by myself (usually once or twice a year).

In fact, when my oldest daughter told me her friend had invited her to a sleepover on Friday night, I balked. “Why don’t you do it next weekend?” I asked a bit flustered.  She reluctantly told her friend that dad said “no.” (a word that she probably associates as synonymous with me!)

However, unlike past weekends, when I usually set the tone for what we will do and, only ask them to affirm my plans (although, unlike my wife, I usually improvise), this time, as our kids are growing in assertiveness, individuality and independence, I was struck by how difficult it is to get them to agree on anything.

Come to think of it, I would venture to say, it is probably easier to get Mitt Romney, Barak Obama, John Boehner and Harry Reid to get on the same page about fixing the economy, than it is for my three kids to agree as to what they want to do on a given day.  (although that may be a little overstated!)

Saturday I was caught in the midst of this new found discord between them.

After all agreeing to go to breakfast at Einstein’s Bagels, instead of our usual breakfast spot, which is usually my choice because it’s cheap and it’s good (enough), it went downhill from there.

It was like trying to negotiate a plan with the Keystone Cops. When my two younger kids wanted to go to Barnes and Noble, my eleven-year-old daughter didn’t want to go. When my older daughter and son wanted to go to the park, my seven-year-old daughter didn’t want to go. When I suggested going to the swimming pool (which usually gets a rousing consensus), my son wanted to go home and play with his soldiers instead. (So much for my improvisation!)

But since, as the Rolling Stones say, “You can’t always get what you want,” we ended up doing it all.

If she's going to play, might as well think big...
We went to the book store for a little while, until I got tired of my older daughter’s whining. We went to play basketball for a while at the park, where I beat my older daughter 15 to nothing in a game of one-on-one (Abuse, you say? Nonsense, I was teaching her a lesson about having to work hard if she wants to play basketball on a team!).

Anyway, after getting tired of the two little ones complaining about wanting to leave because of the heat and my son saying he was
“bored” (there’s always whining involved), we went home, got into our bathing suits and went to the pool at the athletic club we are members of.  Of course, my oldest daughter refused to get in the water (it wouldn’t have made sense that everyone was enjoying the same activity!) and shortly after getting lunch, and a thunderstorm forcing everyone out of the pool area, we had to go home (soldier play time for my son and UM football and Mets baseball for me!).

However, since God has a great sense of humor, after watching the debacle of both of my teams, we took quick showers and went to dinner at a restaurant, where the highlight was my son’s Batman coloring book falling in a crack between the booth and the wall, which caused a big ruckus (and more whining) at our table and everyone took turns trying to get the book out until I noticed that the booth moved and saved my son’s night.   

That night, after putting them to bed and praying with them, as we do every night, I went to lie down with a sense of fatherly pride and a feeling of “mission accomplished,” considering my wife was getting home the next day, and thought, to paraphrase one of my favorite Bill Withers songs, despite all the whining and conflict between them, it was a lovely day...

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