Today R and I are watching the kids of some friends of ours. Because of the timing of their birthdays, the ages of the four kids fall into stair steps right now: 6,5,4, and 3.
It can be a challenge to manage the four of them, so I'm always trying to think of ways to keep them busy with stuff they can all do.
Today's great adventure was going to be a playground tour. The housing area we live in has a walking/biking path that goes around the entire area, intermittently spotted with playgrounds or basketball courts. To get the kids on board with 'the plan', I sold it to them like an adventure: we were going to visit as many playgrounds as we could and compare them to see which one they thought was best. Clever, no?
It seemed like it would be so very, very simple.
After the zoo of trying to get everyone to go potty and put their shoes on, I should have realized that it was going to be a little more challenging than I expected.
We started out after I announced the rules: we all had to stick together, majority rules when there's a disagreement, if the kids didn't listen to me, then I'd call R and they'd have to come back to the house while the rest of us had all the fun.
Off we went....R had a glint in his eye when we left like, 'good luck, sista!'
Early this morning, we had a thunderstorm, so the ground was pretty wet and really muddy in spots. And I decided against taking a towel to wipe off the playground equipment. I should have rethought that.
Within 30 seconds of our leaving the front door, T took off running. Ry, the youngest, took off after him. I called them back (miraculously they came right back) and explained - again - that we were all going to stick together. I got nods of agreement.
We got to our first puddle. T runs through it and then runs off. Sigh. Ry is right behind him. The girls are right behind the boys. I stand still with my arms folded until they notice. I dubbed that the 'Silent but deadly' pose. I don't have to say a word and they all walk back and mutter, "sorrrrrryyyyyyyy". Then Ry runs back and forth through the puddle, splashing the girls with muddy water.
Then he does it again. I ask him not to do that again. He does. So, I call R and tell him that Ry isn't behaving and I need to bring him back. So we all walk back to our house to drop off Ry. And then we return to the first playground. The girls swing and T runs around, and they decide they want to play in the sand.
The sand is wet, natch, and with five seconds I hear a chorus of "eeeewwwwwwwww! This is dirrrrrttttyyyyy!" and all the kids come up wanting me to wipe off their hands. I try to talk them into brushing most of the sand off themselves, but they all look at me in disbelief. So then I try a follow the leader approach and show them what I mean. They reluctantly do it, but they are not happy that after sticking their hands into wet nasty sand that their hands are still grimy after brushing them off.
I attempt to distract them by suggesting we go to the next playground, which works until T starts running towards the second playground, I assume the silent but deadly pose. He comes back as soon as he notices that we aren't running right behind him and gets upset with me when I tell him he's going to have to hold my hand since he keeps forgetting to stay with us. He announces, "I'm going home!" and takes off running towards our house. I call R and give him the heads up and ask him to call me when T gets there. It only takes him a minute or so before he calls me back, so the girls and I head to the next playground.
The equipment there is wet but thankfully free of bird poop, so both girls get to swing at the same time instead of having to take turns. As we get ready to go to the third playground, R calls to tell me T has decided to come back out with us and to keep an eye out for him. Within seconds, I see him running towards us. When he gets to where we are waiting, I give him a big hug and tell him how happy I am that he's decided to come back and walk with us.
Everything is fine for about three minutes until T decides he's thirsty. It's just a wild guess, but I'm thinking the running might have had something to do with it. When I point out that I have nothing to drink with me, he bursts into tears. O-kay. I'm guessing this has to do with more than my inability to turn into a vending machine.
We walk to the community center and use the water fountain, at which point T almost returns to normal, but still insists he wants to go back home. I talk the girls into agreeing by offering to let them decorate the driveway and sidewalk with chalk, but take them towards home a different way, which just so happened to take us by another playground where they played peacefully and tear and tantrum free for a long time. Voluntarily.
On the walk back to the house from the third playground, we find a huge puddle and all take off our shoes and socks and splash away. It was a rocky start this morning, but a fabulous ending!