Last week I took my boys on a road trip to my niece's wedding, 7 hrs away, in Winnipeg. We have done this trip several times, and the boys travel fabulously well. This is, in part, because I have stories on cd, a bin of toys, a bag of food, juice boxes (a special trip-only treat) and "new" library books full of detailed, silly pictures that they can look at.
About half way through our trip home, things were getting tentative. It was gray and cloudy outside, and the wind was so strong that Aaron could hardly walk in it. Since it was also about 4 degrees Celsius and I didn't have winter jackets with us, I couldn't really let the boys out to play. So we were just driving, and listening to stories on tape, and everything was going well. Then, just before supper, the stereo stopped working. And, the boys started getting hungry. And the town where I was planning to get supper was still an hour away. And Aaron started getting bored with all his toys, and complaining. Then he started singing, and Andrew started complaining about the singing.
I spent a good 10 or 15 minutes taking the face on and off of the stereo, trying desperately to get it to work again, but to no avail. I just wanted that extra distraction for them until we could get to Yorkton. I started praying that God would miraculously fix the stereo so that we could have a peaceful drive. And God said no, I don't think you're getting off that easily, Jill.
As the boys began to get grumpier and grumpier, I realized that I was out of juice and cookies. There were no snacks to hold them over until supper. And then I drove by a sign that said, "Yorkton: 85 km. Some other little town: 15 km." I knew the boys could not wait almost an hour to eat. They could, however, wait 10 or 15 min. for us to get to the next town down the line. I decided that it was time to give up my agenda and tune into my childrens' needs.
We stopped and ate supper, and started driving again. We got to Yorkton and I stopped for a drink and some gum to keep me awake. When I got back to the car, Andrew asked, "Where is my hot drink before bed, Mom?" Oh yeah. Maybe I should think about what comforts my kids usually get at bedtime, rather than insisting that they go to sleep according to my agenda. I went back into the gas station and made a warm tea, split between two cups (one of hot tea and one of cold water).
We continued driving for another 20 minutes or so. Andrew was talking non stop. Aaron was not falling asleep, but was actually starting to whine because Andrew wouldn't give him a turn with Andrew's special bear. Why could these children not just go to sleep? I tried the stereo again for a few minutes. Then I started yelling (always counter productive): "Children! It is bed time. Go. To. Sleep." Then I realized that this was ridiculous. And then Andrew informed me that he had to go pee. So we stopped, and he peed. I decided to check if Aaron needed a diaper change. I discovered that he was soaking wet. He had spilled his tea all over himself. So we had to do an entire clothes change.
We started the car, and instead of yelling, I sang to them. Then I talked about the sunset we could see on the horizon. And encouraged them to fall asleep so that they could see daddy sooner. And guess what happened? In a little while, they both fell asleep peacefully. No crying. No fussing. Just a calm end to a long day.
And I realized that this was a microcosm of many of our days. So often I get caught up in my agenda and forget that I need to tune in to what my kids are saying. I think, "Why will these children not settle down?" instead of taking them to the park, because I would rather clean the kitchen. I wonder, "Why is everyone so unreasonable this afternoon?" instead of remembering that we didn't eat much lunch and they have not had a snack or a drink. I tell them to go play with their toys when they really just want to nibble on a carrot while they watch me make supper. I want them to be distracted by the radio so I can drive home as fast as possible. I end up frustrated and annoyed simply because I am not keeping the needs of my children clearly in focus. I am not tuning into what they are trying to tell me.
Certainly, there are days when they just wake up on the wrong side of the bed, or days when I have to get things done and have little time to give them more than the basic attention they need. But how many other days do I simply get stuck in my plan, and forget that these are little people with little plans of their own. And that sometimes, they are little people who need help, or comfort, or an adult to show them the way. And that the adult they need is me.