Every once in awhile I do some big grand parenting thing that makes me think I’m not completely screwing up our kids.
Not enough that these moments of Mama Mojo come anywhere near balancing out the constant “Therapy Talking Points” I provide my kids on a daily basis — She’s always DEMANDING us, she never says please! She left us with sitters she found on the internet! Sometimes she starts screaming at us before we’ve even finished breakfast! She won’t make us a back-up dinner if nothing on the table is appealing enough to our persnickety palates! One year she chose to attend a WRITING WORKSHOP for three whole days rather than celebrate MOTHER’S DAY with us! When one of us hits/kicks/bites the other one, SHE ACTUALLY TELLS US TO HIT/KICK/BITE THEM BACK! — but hey, we’re Jewish, they were going to end up in therapy anyway, so I’m doing them a favor by at least offering them something to “explore” while they’re there.
That said, sometimes I really do stun myself by coming up with something that actually helps them negotiate the world in a more logical way, and turns them into better people, with an actual value system, and umm … makes my life easier on the-day-to-day level, too.
And by easier, I mean less expensive.
Enter EXPERIENCE DAYS (as opposed to PRESENTS DAYS. Obviously.).
The concept springs from the idea that most of us don’t want more STUFF in our life – we want more experiences, more vacations, more adventures, more things to make memories from. I can’t count the number of times I have shrugged off MrBig(Ideas)’s attempts to buy me some great gift by saying, No, please, really: I just want to take the day off / get a massage / go take a writing workshop.
Well, a few years ago, I decided it was time to teach my kids the value of experience over the endless pieces of crappity-crap-crappen-crap that they were constantly begging for whenever we went anywhere.
I mean, it kills me that literally EVERYWHERE we take our kids, someone is trying to sell us something.
At the zoo, at the museum, at the park. At the MALL. And I’m not just talking about the STORES, people. I mean the friggin’ STALLS parked all over the HALLWAYS and the COURTS of the malls. As if just going to the mall doesn’t already mean we’re shopping – we’re’re supposed to be buying our kids crap they’ll break on the way home BETWEEN STORES, too?
Not this Mama. I hit my breaking point the day I took Diddy and Gaga to the Disney El Capitan Theater to go see Beauty and the Beast. This particular screening came complete with floor show. Yep, real-live Belle and dancing tchotchkes entertained the kids before the movie for a slight up-charge in ticket price.
We bought popcorn. Soda. Candy.
Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.
And then after the show…
… the ushers made us exit through the gift shop.
Instant meltdown. Diddy was almost four, Gaga two-plus, and I literally had to throw them both over my shoulders to get them through the store without them tearing everything off the shelves in a tiny-child-consumeristic-frenzy.
They struggled in my arms all the way back the car.
That’s when the Mommy Mojo kicked in.
“Girls,” I said. “Today was an Experience Day. An experience is a THING YOU DO THAT’S FUN. It’s a thing you do that’s SO FUN, YOU REMEMBER IT FOR ALWAYS. We don’t BUY things on Experience Days. We DO things on Experience Days. Today, we WENT TO A MOVIE. That was the Experience. That was ENOUGH.”
This didn’t stop them screaming or crying.
But what it did do was give us a language for the NEXT TIME we were headed out. I used that language as we got dressed (Today we’re having an EXPERIENCE DAY – not a PRESENTS DAY – we’re going to the zoo) and in the car (We are going to have such a fun EXPERIENCE today!). Yhen I quizzed them at the gate.
Me: What’s today? An Experience Day or a Presents Day?
Diddy: An Experience Day.
Me: Let’s go check out some giraffes.
It worked. On the way out, Gaga did try to drag us into one of the fifteen billion gift shops there, but Diddy smacked her down with a quick, “Gaga, today’s an EXPERIENCE Day, not a Presents Day!” and we made it home without complaints.
The kids are so good at this now, we can actually ENTER GIFTSHOPS and LOOK A THINGS without having to fight about why we’re not BUYING everything in sight.
I’ll be back to elaborate on that whole window-shopping-with-my kids thing in the next week or so. Till then, I’ve got to go order them around / leave them with unproven sitters / force them to eat asparagus / abandon them for some extended me-time / compel them to go mano-a-mano in the ChecklistFamily Fight Club.
And I should probably start looking for family therapists right after that …