Monday, January 28, 2013

Well, at Least They Probably Won't Become Extinct

Over the years, I've traveled a lot--I visited 45 states and 15 different countries in my 20s and 30s. But recently, I've been feeling unnaturally grounded, as if no matter how hard I try, I can never really get anywhere. I suppose part of the reason for this is because I really never can get anywhere. Summer family vacation? Thwarted by Ren's back surgery. Business trip to Singapore? Cancelled due to illness. Christmas vacation road trip? Blizzard of 2012 (granted, this last one may have been ill-conceived from the start, but still).

And sometimes we can't even get beyond our own block. 

Saturday, we planned a little road trip to IKEA and the international grocery store (in desperate need of tofu and seaweed). The cold weather makes things infinitely worse for Ren's back, so the only way a road trip was going to work was if we had full cooperation from the kids. To that end, all Sky and Pink P had to do was refrain from fighting, crying, or excessive complaining. You'd be amazed by how hard this is for them, particularly lately.  

Before we even pulled out of the garage, Sky had a good cry.  Since he was crying about a book that fell on his foot when I tried to hand it to him, we decided it didn't count for the no fighting/no crying/no complaining rule. Still, it was an inauspicious beginning, and I knew we were doomed by the time we got to the end of our very short driveway. That's when Sky lamented, "Oh man, the battery's dead, now I don't have anything to do." To try to distract him from repeating this complaint (over and over and over), I said in a cheerful, if not slightly loud, voice, "That's okay, we can listen to your music." Then I turned on the CD player, an act which immediately prompted Pink P to chime in from the back, "It's too loud!" And when I turned it down? "Now it's too soft!"

By this time, we'd made it around the block and back to the end of our driveway, and I found myself seriously questioning why my children couldn't figure out when to keep their mouths shut. All they had to do was appear to be cooperative. 

Once we were back around to our driveway, Ren faltered. It's not easy getting everything together and putting everyone in the car. Plus, we really wanted to get out of town for awhile. Midwestern winters are long and tedious, and we needed a change. But they had just managed to squeeze in one cry and several complaints into the space of 2 minutes. It was a tough call. Just as Ren made his decision and started to inch past the driveway and down the block, just as the possibility of going still existed, just when they could have helped their cause tremendously by simply keeping their mouths shut, just at that moment, Pink P said, "It's all Sky's fault, I didn't do anything." And then she broke into a high pitched cry. Not to be outdone, Sky jumped in to defend himself vigorously.

At this point, I tried to intervene with, "Stop talking. Now!" I'd like to say I said this calmly and coolly, but my voice was loud enough to rise above the din of their whines. After the briefest of pauses, Sky started repeating, "I just have one thing to say. I just have one thing to say. I just have one thing to say..." When I tried to get him to stop, he just got louder. By this point, it was abundantly clear we weren't going to make it to IKEA. So, after our second trip around the block, we pulled back into the garage. I wish I could tell you that we all calmly returned to the house and took a moment to ponder reflectively on what had happened. We didn't--at least not right away.


Sometimes I am absolutely amazed by how thoroughly our children ignore us. When they are together, it can be as if Ren and I don't even exist, and no level of bribery is enticing enough to get them to do what we ask. Because, when they are together,  they are 100% intent on doing whatever the other is doing. When they are alone, they are pleasant, helpful, and respectful, but when they are together? Not so much. 

My friend, the geologist, tells me that this behavior makes complete sense. "They know they are competing for limited resources. They have to keep their eyes on each other in order to survive. It's totally evolutionarily sound behavior." It doesn't help anything to know my kids' rude behavior is part of their natural instinct to continue their line, but somehow the explanations of my geologist friend always make me feel better.

So, this weekend was a bust, but there's always next week. Maybe by then my kids will have evolved a tad further. If not, look at the bright side: we save a lot of time and money by never going anywhere.


Mama Melch said...

And thank you for reaffirming my love of Internet shopping!

Mom on the Edge said...

Perhaps the funniest part of the story is that the "one thing" Sky had to say was, "Daddy, really needs to fix the car DVD player." Ooh, buddy, we really need to work on your timing.