It was deceivingly chilly outside the other day, when we went for a walk. Still, I dressed them in a warm-enough outer layer and hats that covered their ears. Half-way down the block, though, the allure of a late-October stroll to the park amid a blue sky and sunny day was masked by whipping winds, which carried winter’s slow approach on its breath. Suddenly, the delight of traipsing through colorful and crispy leaf piles was replaced by great discomfort. Scrunched up faces of disapproval and whining quickly ensued.
“It’s cold, let’s go home!!” said the 4-year-old.
“Eeehaaaaaaoohhh,” said the 2-year-old – or something to that affect.
I did briefly consider their input. I even glanced in the direction of the warm house we could return to, before determining that what we had here before us was an opportunity. This was a teaching moment.
I made some minor adjustments before we proceeded, one of which was to redirect our destination. The others involved putting the 2-year-old in the empty stroller I had carted along and showing both boys how to tuck their frigid fingers up into the sleeves of their sweaters, like turtle heads retreating into their shell. Lastly, and most important, I shook off my own feelings of cold displeasure, buoyed my attitude, and re-calibrated my compass in the direction of adventure. For good measure, I reminded my fellow travel companions that we were heading to the place we intended on going after visiting the park, which would afford them the chance to pick out a treat in which to enjoy after lunch.
The two-year-old was appeased enough to stop his caterwauling, once he was nestled in the stroller. The four-year-old, however, was decidedly unconvinced that anything other than returning home was in his best interest. Since he really didn’t have any other viable options, though, he reluctantly trudged alongside of us. Through his continued pleas to turn back and complaints of how cold it was, I made out-loud observations about the Halloween decorations on display at the houses we passed by and the beauty of the day. It wasn’t that I was trying to dismiss him or tune him out, I just wasn’t adding fuel to his detrimental utterings by listening intently – which, I might add, also helps with not getting personally swept up in the falderal of children’s un-skilled (and fleeting) reactions. After all, young ones are constantly learning from the words and behaviors of the adults that surround them. So, if I were to become as eq!”ually dis-satisfied with the coldness as he was, it would be teaching him to stay in that mode, instead of learning how to transition out of it. It’s worth mentioning that regardless of what’s going on, the level of our happiness depends almost solely on our attitude. We are presented with an active choice in every moment in regards to how we respond to whatever it is that’s happening.
After a few minutes, the four-year-old’s dialog began to shy away from furthering his agenda of convincing us to turn back. When we were approaching our targeted location (aka the treat store), he said, more as a defeating comment than a question, “How will we ever make it home from here? It’s sooo far away!” As I’ve been slowly adapting the boys to my particular style of sarcastic whit, over the span of the two years I’ve been serving as their nanny, and felt confident he would be able to ascertain my humor, I said, “We’ll probably just have to stay here!” extending my arms to indicate that I was referring to the patch of sidewalk we were currently striding upon. “We’re probably not going to make it.” I continued. “Go on without us!” I declared dramatically to the world around us. I smiled lightheartedly to the four-year-old as we rounded the corner, where he set to happily crunching in the leaves piled next to the curb.
Failed attempts in trying to get me to purchase cookies, ice cream, a host of different candies, and chocolate bars yielded in the 4-year-old settling on a rice crispy bar and the 2-year-old getting a packet of fruit snacks. Upon cinching down their hats and scooping up the 2-year-old, we shuffled back outside. When we were about a block away from the store, and 2-3 blocks away from home, the four-year-old looked up at me and said, “I wish we had driven. How long will it take us to get home?” Without missing a beat I replied, “A million,” which is a common unit of measurement in my own family household – as in, What time’s dinner? Answer: A million. The four-year-old flashed a smirk in my direction, indicating he both understood I was being funny and that I probably wasn’t going to give him any answer that satisfied his inquiry in any substantial way.
In a final blaze of malcontent glory, I heard the 4-year-old mutter to himself on our “perilous” 2-3 block journey home, “This wind is dumb. I wish it would go away!” While I contemplated the potential merits of addressing his use of the word ‘dumb’, which is on the Not-Terrible-To-Use-But-Certainly-Not-Ideal-For-A-4-Year-Old-To-Include-In-His-Vocabularly Word List, I decided to let the one teaching thread I was focusing on carry us home, verses trying to add another one simultaneously into the mix, especially considering we were still in the fray. So, I politely sidestepped the self-dialog I overheard him having with himself, in favor of further continuing with the lesson at hand:
For better or worse, our attitude & outlook is what determines our experience in any given moment.
We always have a choice in how we respond –
and that choice is what either makes us or breaks us.
So, we strolled on home, under the bright light of the sun that made us think it would be warm outside before we headed out the door, however long ago it was we left. We made funny animal noises and talked about mailboxes and the four-year-old pondered why it was that some of the trees had lost all of their leaves while others still had them. And, I’m pleased to report that no limbs or lives were lost in our cold walk around the neighborhood.
We would do well to teach our children how to better weather (no pun intended) discomfort.
Why? Because discomfort is like the air, it’s EVERYWHERE WE GO, like, ALL OF THE TIME.
Of course, this means we, too, need to know how to do it.
To listen to an audio reading of this blog post: