Slow Down, Fun Train.
Lately I've noticed an annoying pattern that has crept into my life. A habitual craziness that wriggled in while I was trying to keep kids busy and happy. Aren't busy kids happy kids, after all?
It is called “hurry scurry” syndrome, and if you are a mom with young kids, I'm sure you're familiar with the following fun-filled scenario. It usually goes something like this:
- We're meeting 20 people at the zoo at 10am. I pack 3 lunches (I will eat the leftover crumbs), 3 drinks, 3 snacks, diapers, an extra baby outfit in case of an accident, sun screen, stroller, hats.
- The gas light comes on as I pull out of the driveway. I put a few gallons of super expensive gas in the minivan before heading through the gates of the zoo. The line is all the way down the drive and there is nowhere to park. Everyone within a 50 mile radius decided to come to the zoo, it smells like sweaty kids and I have lost one of my sons—no, wait, there he is.
- Ok we made it. “No, it's not time for a snack yet.” I hose them down with sunscreen and smile inwardly because I remembered to put everyone in shoes that will not lead to whiney discomfort and blisters. We push our way through the line and into the zoo. A mess of other moms holding toddlers are all scrammbling to see above other moms holding toddlers. We stare at the wrinkled, dirty elephants and take a few pictures. Halfway through the zoo we squirt hand sanitizer and distribute snacks and drinks and pat down our own sweaty forheads while doing a quick “fun” check. Are the kids having fun? Why do I feel like I'm training for a marathon. I'm panting audibly. This is fun, right?
- It's time for more monkeys, leopards, potty breaks. There it is. The petting zoo. Finally—the petting zoo. The end. We gather the kids, we head back through the gates and lay out the packed meal on the picnic table. Now everyone is soaked with sweat, the diaper is full, the baby is half-asleep; the kids only want to eat chips from the packed lunch. Another quick “fun check” reveals the kids want to play at the zoo park—they want to stay until dark and they never want to leave. The baby is verging on a melt-down and the mommy fuel tank is empty.
- I announce that the fun train is leaving. I gather everything (which is more than I can fit in my hands and I don't remember bringing half of it—it has clearly reproduced while I was looking the other way) in my sweaty arms. We head to the car, the baby falls asleep before we leave the parking lot, the kids are moaning and sleepily staring out the window, and after 10-15 minutes of deep breathing, I stop to reflect on the morning fun.
This (slightly) dramatized version of what often happens when I plan a day o' fun forces me to do a little mommy-evaluation. Later, when the moon is out and the grime of petting zoo has been rinsed down the drain, I will load the dishwasher and think of things I would change or do differently.
Did I create a fun memory for my kids? Were we so busy bustling around, avoiding the crowds and scrambling to get from one thing to the next that the day blurred into a “please walk faster and stop asking for snacks” jumbled-chaotic-zoo mess? Are the kids and the circumstances really CRAZY, or is it just my response that is CRAZY?
Our little expeditions should be fun—I plan them for the kids. I want them to have a great time. I want them to make a good memory; what can I do to eliminate the “hurry scurry” of it all? I am a mom who messes up regularly, but can I train myself to stop in the moment and think about what really matters? Can I stop fiddling with snacks and a fussy kid long enough to appreciate the smiles and laughs and fun that is all around me?
I have a feeling it will take practice, lots of practice, and discipline. As I am training my kids to do chores and be polite and guiding them through an endless list of dos and don'ts, I should probably also be disciplining myself. Can I learn to stop in the moment and sift through the crying and the things that need to get done, to the important things? To the little souls entrusted to us for care and love?
Nobody wants the Fun Train to completely derail, but I'm hoping there is a way to slow it down a little. It's time to start appreciating the little hands and the belly laughs and the questions that are hard to answer. A time is quickly coming when our kids will choose to play with their peers rather than play with us. Let's make the most of now and try not to miss it—maybe we can extend these days of playing together, even for a few moments!
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”