the network for radical unschooling families
We've been unschoolers since October, and most days it is awesome for the kids and for me!
Some days, however, like yesterday, things were so trying. I have trouble thinking of creative ideas when the going gets rough and my husband and I are both tired.
Yesterday we went to the Rally for the Right to Know in Washington, DC. The beginning of the day was a LOT of fun, and after the rally we thought we would do some exploring in the city (we live close). My son (6) said he would like to go to the zoo, and my daughter (2) said she would like to go as well. Even though I was feeling a little beat, we decided we should oblige and headed over to the zoo.
In the middle of the zoo, my daughter decided she did not want to sit in her stroller (she had requested it on the way out the door and begged to ride it TO DC, instead of riding in the car). We got her out of the stroller and then had a very hard time keeping track of her.
I get SO nervous in crowded places. My six year old sticks close and I don't have to worry, but my two year old just doesn't. Chasing her was tiring and I didn't know what to do. Leave? Pick her up? Tell her she had to get back in the stroller?
We decided to go through the reptile house only, as that was where we left off the last time we went to the zoo. Strollers weren't allowed, but our daughter was happy to look at the reptiles and we had a bit of a reprieve.
When we left, my husband asked her to get into the stroller and she said no. She ran from us. I tried to talk to her. She walked away from me. We picked her up and set her into the stroller. She screamed, wriggled, and made a HUGE scene. I asked her if she would hold my hand. She said, no. My son tried to talk to her, even asking if she would be willing to hold his hand. She said no and ran up the path. I felt so helpless. I couldn't think of anything else to do. She refused to come with us toward the METRO station and away from the zoo. She ran every direction, hid behind trash cans, and found it all very amusing.
Finally, my husband grabbed her and forced her into the stroller, strapping her in.
I felt awful about it but I don't know what another solution would have been. We tried racing each other for awhile, but she would keep running or veer off of the path and we would have to chase her down again.
Perhaps we should have said no from the beginning, regarding the zoo, but I wanted to give them the opportunity, since we don't go into the city all that often.
What should we have done differently?
Yep, it sounds like you tried to do too much in one day with a very young child. But wasn't that nice of big brother to try to help?
-=-I felt awful about it but I don't know what another solution would have been. -=-
You could have taken turns holding her. She could have seen more, and you could have shown her things.
Going more quickly, at a zoo with young children, is often a good idea. Go at her pace, rather than at a slow read-the-signs adults pace.
-=-What should we have done differently?-=-
I would have skipped the political rally and done things the kids liked. If parents put politics first and their children second, it's not a recipe for the most peaceful family unschooling life. When the kids are older, things will change, but when they're young if you choose things from which they will learn the most, you might find yourselves more confident unschoolers more quickly.
*** When we left, my husband asked her to get into the stroller and she said no. She ran from us. I tried to talk to her. She walked away from me. ****
If you said no to something you didn't believe was right for you and then that person started forcing you, how would you react? No matter how much that person believed it was right for you, it wouldn't make it feel more right to you. Your daughter behaved the way a rational person should to a situation like that.
And really what your husband was trying to do wasn't what was best for her but to make her more convenient. What happened was that rather than focusing on the problem, you got locked into the one an only solution you came up with (getting her in the stroller) which then became the new problem.
If one of you didn't want to stay with her and go at her pace, if she didn't want to be carried, it would have been better for everyone's peacefulness to leave. I assume since it's in DC it's free. (And for other parents, a season pass is a great investment in peace so that zoo trips to "need" to be hours long to get your money's worth. (Which can end up being your money's worth of misery if kids are tired!)
***I have trouble thinking of creative ideas when the going gets rough and my husband and I are both tired.***
I've been there. Piggy back ride?
Around here (kids are 2 & 5), I don't suggest situations that I think will become overly challenging for us. On other occasions I've only thought in terms of "will this be fun?" It works better when I think about the whole family dynamic and whether we'll thrive or get stressed in particular situations. For us right now, we go into crowded situations occasionally, when everyone is well-rested.
If we're in a situation in which we're becoming stressed, it helps us to split up and meet up later, one parent focusing on one child. Then we don't have to find ways to accommodate both kids at once.
One time at the grocery store, Sue (2) suddenly decided to go from my arms to walking, and then from holding my hand to wandering. It was really busy there, and it was stressful. Mitri and Joe went out to the car, and I followed her, being the best buffer I could be (keeping her out of the way of carts and guiding her away when she was blocking people). I wracked my brain for things that would attract her to the outside, and I finally found one. Can't remember what it was--might have been bringing chocolate to brother. If I can get her focused on a next exciting destination, it helps.
With Mitri I could jump him places. Sue doesn't care for that. She loves birds, so sometimes it works if I say, "Do you want to go see if there are any birds in the parking lot?" Hunting around for a baby helps. "Let's go see the baby!" Sometimes Sue will want to push a stroller while I carry her. It's not the most comfortable thing for me, but if it helps me get her going in a particular direction, I'm all for it.
I really appreciate the advice of everyone.
Just want to clarify - the political rally was something that we all wanted to go to - my six year old had a blast (he's not your typical six year old). When my daughter got bored, my husband took her to McDonalds, and when they came back, we left. We only stayed at the rally about an hour.
At the zoo, it was time to leave, and yes, it was convenient for us to put her in the stroller - you are all right about that. She would not be carried, when we offered she said no and wandered around.
Once she got into the stroller we did offer her a sandwich and she was hungry so she took it (we knew she was hungry before but had refused food when she was wandering around). We absolutely did the Reptile House at her pace - I went with our son and did things at his pace (SUPER slow - reading every sign) and my husband went through with our daughter at her pace, which was quick, but with lots of doubling back.
The enticing thing is something I need to do more - to me, sometimes it feels like bribing and that feels wrong, but if it's something they WANT to do or see, then I suppose that's fine? It's definitely better than forcing a screaming child into a stroller.
Thanks to everyone for your comments and advice. In the moment things just aren't instinctive for us yet in all things. It's a process for sure.
Julie's suggestion above re the family splitting-up for a few hours / the day has been working really well for us. We have a 5 year old son and 2 year old daughter, and have found ourselves in some testing scenarios in public too up until recently. ;-) Our son is much more understanding lately that his sister's needs / wants are quite different to his, and has grown in patience when I explain the situation, but of course we can't expect the same level of understanding from our 2 year old.
Anyway, we (finally!) hit on a solution that seems to work best for everyone, which is to 'split up' one day each weekend. I have my son all day one Saturday, and we plan our day together, and what he's going to have most fun doing. At the same time, my hubby has our daughter, and he chooses something to do with her that she loves. (She loves swimming; my son just doesn't seem to 'rate it' in the same way. So she often gets to go to the pool on her day with Mummy or Daddy, followed by lots of art and crafts at home, which my son also doesn't enjoy quite so much.) The following weekend, we switch; I have our daughter, and my husband has our son. We try to spend at least 4 - 5 hours with each of them, and often even longer.
It's working really well. Each of the children gets completely focused, 'quality time' with each of their parents. And they get to spend their time doing something that completely suits their own personalities and leanings, without having to accommodate their brother / sister. They seem to enjoy having this one day in the week apart, even though they're getting on better the older they get. My son especially looks forward to his weekend day with Mum / Dad, and starts to think about what he wants to do several days in advance. (Nearly always that's out of the house, but sometimes some of the activities he chooses are at home.)
For both my husband and me, it's far easier going too. We get to have quality time with each of our children, which means more enjoyable, peaceful chats with them and no sibling arguments for a whole day. Then we spend the other weekend day together as a family, often with family friends too. So, everyone's family life and circumstances are different, but if you can, I highly recommend 'splitting-up' half of the weekend. Bit of a cliche, but everyone's a winner. ;-)
The split up sounds like a really great idea. We do date nights when we have Wednesdays free, but we need to make them more sacred (by "date night" I mean, I do a date with one child and my husband does a date with the other - the kids pick where we go). Family time needs to be more sacred in our family, period. Thank you.
What should we have done differently?
Now that you know she's in the running away wildly stage, you can plan for it - don't go places when you're too tired to chase her, take her places where you feel good about her running around, in fact, prioritize those places for awhile. Plan on keeping close watch on her in stores and busy places. Since you know you don't think creatively when you're tired (I don't, either) plan for that, too - plan outtings around your energy needs as much as your kids needs. It doesn't do anyone any good to have an amped up toddler and a worn out mommy. Its better to give something that you Hope will be fun a miss than to set yourself up for a rough outting, dashing your hopes anyway.
That being said, don't blow a rough end to an outting out of proportion, either. Sometimes the best option is to pick up your crying child and carry her - gently and sympathetically - to the car.
Sandra wrote: Going more quickly, at a zoo with young children, is often a good idea. Go at her pace, rather than at a slow read-the-signs adults pace.
For years we did zoos and museums at very nearly a run with Morgan. Sometimes it seemed more like a high-speed chase than anything else. She loved it, and we have fun stories out of it. Now that she's a bit older we can see those places at a sedate pace and its a very different experience for all of us.
Meredith wrote: That being said, don't blow a rough end to an outting out of proportion, either. Sometimes the best option is to pick up your crying child and carry her - gently and sympathetically - to the car.
Though we try very hard to not get to a crying point with our son, there are days I would like nothing better myself than to lie down on the floor for a good cry and have someone come in and carry me home! Sometimes in these situations there is no right answer. An overtired child is going to continue to be overtired no matter what we do and all we can do is find the most loving way of helping her move on to what she needs, food, a nap, a quiet time. The key is to look at the overall pattern of our parenting and know that there will be bad days but if the pattern is how we want to parent, that is what our children will learn. Sometimes the hard times can be the best opportunity to be close to our children in a different way. I'll always remember advice I received about the nights when I just couldn't be a good mama anymore and needed my husband to pace with Charlie for an hour while I got some sleep. I was reminded that an hour of crying in the sympathetic arms of someone who loves you is completely different than an hour crying alone in the dark.