Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Kid Wrangler

Now that the weather has cooled, our trips to get the kids from school have changed from a brisk walk up the hill to a quick trip in the warm van.  I miss the walk, but I can't psych myself up to bundle the babies for the trip and listen to them sniffle and complain about being cold.  If they were walking, they'd be warm, right?  Warm and perhaps glistening a tad bit. :)  Oh well ... at least in the van we have tunes!

The other day as we were sitting at the cross-walk waiting for the bell to ring, a young gal came along walking her two dogs.  Of course, Ashley asked me who she was.  To her great surprise, I didn't know.  "Don't you know everyone, Mom?"  Nope.  Someday she will realize just how much I actually know and she'll probably be a bit disappointed.  But until then, I'll just bask in the warmth of her, "My Mom Knows Everything" attitude.

As the trio approached the corner, I could tell that this young teenager was dressed for a run:  running shoes, work-out pants and a t-shirt.  Unfortunately, the dogs weren't cooperating.  Every step or two, she'd stop and tug on one (or both) of the leashes.  Apparently there are a lot of good smells along that stretch of road.  She finally made the corner and ran a few strides ... until Dog #1 came to a screeching halt.  The girl kept going and was surprised to find the leash break free from the dog.  She turned back to Dog #1, who was really enjoying someting stinky, and had to half-drag Dog #2.  She spent the next few seconds trying to slip the collar back over Dog #1's head while Dog #2, nose to the ground, was trying to follow another trail.  The girl stood up, gave both leashes a good "I'm the BOSS!" tug, and turned back toward her destination.  Which I hoped, for her sake, was close.

The dogs and runner headed off again ... for about 10 feet ... when Dog #2 yanked on the leash and tore it out of the poor girl's hand.  She stopped, hung her head and then set off for Dog #2, dragging sniffing Dog #1 behind her.  She eventually managed to step on Dog #2's leash and stop him in his tracks.  She reached down, grabbed the leash, gave them another stern, "Stop Doing That!" tug and headed off.  Ashley remarked at about this time, "Hmmm ... that doesn't look like a lot of fun."  Nope.  See, she's pretty smart, too.

The pack ran along (successfully) for about 20 yards and then crossed the street.  The last we saw of our poor jogger was her trying to drag both dogs around the corner and out of sight ... hopefully home.  She was getting more an upper-body work-out than a lower one.

This reminded me of a commercial that aired during the Super Bowl a few years ago.  It still makes me giggle!  Watch for the wrangler with the sticky roller. :)

It also reminds me of what it's like sometimes taking our family of 6 out in public.  :)  Sometimes I feel like an actual herd as we head into a restaurant, a store or the doctor's office.  Suddenly a sense of claustrophobia comes over me ... too many people going too many directions in too little space!  And now with all the coats and boots, I quickly feel smothered!

It was harder when all the kids were younger (i.e. more prone to wander).  Now I can trust the two older kids to stay close by and listen well, while Ashley follows their good example.  That leaves me with Lydia to run after.  And even little Liddy is beginning to figure out the importance of staying close and following Mommy's lead.  But it wasn't always that way ...

There were times when a trip to the grocery store or Wal-mart (shudder) seemed like a crazy combination of dragging and herding.  Dragging little people along who want to look at every little thing on the shelves while trying to keep up with the other little one that has headed around the corner and out of sight.  Suddenly a simple trip to the store for a gallon of milk and a package of toilet paper became a marathon combined with an obstacle course and moving targets!

I remember when Norah was born and I had the terrible feeling that we three would never leave the house ever again.  When we went to the grocery store, I would plop Norah's car seat in the shopping cart basket and Aaron in the seat up front ... and wonder where the actual food was supposed to go!  It became painfully clear that someone would have to learn to walk alongside Mommy and the prime candidate was my Aaron boy, age 20 months.

It was at this crucial moment that Brett and I decided it was time to do some "going to the store" boot-camp training.  We would head to the store with no real need to shop, only to walk around and train our boy how to act in the store:  stay by Mommy & Daddy and keep his hands to himself.  We would bring a cart along with us to use as the consequence for not doing either of those two things.  If he disobeyed, we would put him in the cart (wailing and kicking his legs), until he calmed down.  Then we'd talk about the rules and try again.  As exhausting as the process was, he did figure it out and slowly he became a helper at the store in place of a wrecker!  We have done that with Norah and Ashley as well and are in the process of seeing Lydia transformed into a pleasant shopper, too.  It's a wonderful investment in being able to go in the store and back out with my sanity intact.

Another little training tip that was passed on to me by Mama Kim Cannedy is teaching my kids the importance of being "little duckies".  Or in the chilly weather, "little penguins"!  When I head out with my littler people, we make a little train as we leave the van, head across the parking lot and into the store.  Mommy leads followed by Lydia with Ashley pulling up the rear.  If the bigger kids are along for the trip, they act as cabooses to keep us all together.  If one of my duckies or penguins gets out of line, we stop, re-connect and start again.  If we're really having trouble, we might even head back to the van and practice a few times.  Exhausting?  Most certainly.  But, again, it's an investment in my future trips with my kids ... fun trips without frustrating, "Come back here!" hollerings by me.  

A few weeks ago, our MOPS morning fell on a day when Aaron and Norah were out of school.  That meant that all five of us made the trip to church.  Also, my group was responsible for bringing food so we had a bowl of salad and a basket of bread in addition to my purse and a diaper bag.  It made me proud of my kids to hear a fellow mom compliment us on being such a cute sight:  Aaron carrying the bowl, Norah carrying the basket, Ashley helping Lydia to carry her diaper bag ... all following Mommy duck to the door.  Do they do that all the time?  Nope ... but when they do, it's a delight!

In closing, let's go back to the video for a minute.  There were a few quotes that, while directed at the tough job of cat herding, are claims that I could make as a kid wrangler, (i.e. Mom):
  • "Don't let anybody tell you it's easy."  There's nothing easy about getting all your kids out the door in the morning with coats, backpacks and smiles on their faces.
  • "Being a cat herder is probably one of the toughest things I think I've ever done."  There is nothing tougher than trying to get a toddler to wear clothes that match.  Or their shoes on the right feet.
  • "I'm living a dream."  Sometimes more of a bad-dream, perhaps.  
  • "Not everyone can do what we do."  Being a Mom is a skill learned - one tough lesson at a time!
  • "I wouldn't do nothin' else."  Well, said.

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