We did Mr G's trip. It was a good adventure. We went shopping.
Yeah, okay, so we went shopping in a really cool town that has really funky and fun stores. Including a store that sells swords.
Plus a lot of jewelry and leather stores.
Mr G bought another ring. He lost two at summer camp, so he needed to do the fill-in, poor empty fingers!
The shopkeeper started out all 'I'll just keep surfing the Net here while your kid fingers the rings and then decides on something just to spend his money'...
But that never lasts. In about 15 minutes he was all 'I would LOVE to take your kid to India with me sometime. He's really cool. You do know how amazing he is, right?' (Not that he was actively offering, just could see himself actually enjoying the prospect instead of shuddering at it.)
Okay, so I don't mind my kids being praised by complete strangers. Maybe y'all noticed... heh.
Now, of course, out in public they're not as likely to be bickering and pushing, screaming at each other, wrestling inappropriately, ignoring each other totally as a way to get the other's goat, bossing each other (okay, sometimes they do that), etc. They save that mainly for us, lucky us.
Still, nice that they were on their good behavior in public. Granted, we set them up as much as possible for the vacation days to really work.
The day before, we watch their diets more carefully than usual, keep the sugar and fructose down as far as we can comfortably (without being unkind about it). Maximize the digestive function.
And bed on time, or at least expect to let them sleep in on the day of the trip, if possible at all. Maximize sleep.
On the actual day, we also did our usual 'trip expectations' thing. We stopped after we got out of the car but before the official start of the destination point, and said 'goals for today are:...'
Our goals were:
1) Mr G gets to see the stores he wants to see (it was his trip, after all) and enjoys himself
2) Everyone else has fun, too - including that we all have to watch out for each other, to see if there's someone not having fun, and we take action to make that better
3) 'Everyone else' includes all the other people on the street/in stores - we don't make them worry, fret, feel frustrated, angry, etc., by our behavior
4) Safe, Respectful, Kind
They all looked around at each other, nodded, and we carried on.
We still had a lot of effort on our part to make that work - watching for thirsty, hungry, frustrated. Managing the 'ooh, I wanna touch' in stores that were not for touching. Dealing with the tired legs. Dealing with the uppies demands. Suppressing whining (Miss M has become a champion whiner, we're working on that). Reminders, coaching, and guidance.
Oy. It's a lot of work, some days. But the coaching also means they learn, and practice what they learn. The practice is what made it possible for Mr B, at all of almost 8 years old, to say, 'hey, I want to buy a wallet. I want one with leather that is sturdy enough to take some wear - I'd like it to last until I'm grown. I want one with some style that shows I'm into horses and riding. I'd like to look at the options and compare them, get a feel for them, and choose one that suits me. And I want it to be a good value, a better use of my remaining spending money than the other options that I could imagine.' (Okay, so not quite so many words, but he expressed all those things directly.) Practice allowed him to engage with the shopkeeper, focus on his task, take it seriously, and with due consideration make his choice.
He earned the shopkeeper's respect and admiration. She saw immediately that he was not just messing about, but on a mission. That he took it seriously. That he considered her products with care and consideration. He respected her time, effort, and attention. She started smiling back and forth from him to me, him to ep, him to his sibs, watching as we went through the process of examining, comparing, considering features and value and style, materials and craftsmanship, fitting that into budget and lifestyle and the image he has of himself in the future. At almost 8, he has the process pretty well settled.
People look at us like somehow this is a magical gift our kids have. But really, it is mainly practice. Practice doing it over and over, from the dollar store to the grocery store, that enabled him to pull out those skills and use them. I coached him just a little, but more in response than in guidance. He said he wanted it to last, so I helped show him how to tell which leather was likely to hold up better over the long term. He had the question, but not a way to answer it - I only helped with the answer. He knew I would trust him to make a choice, and that he would have to live with it, but he would not be challenged on it needlessly later. He knows that I will mention quality if he he is buying junk, but I will not rub it in if the item breaks. I will commiserate ('yeah, that stuff does break easily'), and he remembers and thinks about it later. He may be embarrassed sometimes that he wants to buy cheap plastic crap, and sometimes that really IS what he wants. But he knows it, and registers that as a choice, and doesn't act surprised (though sometimes resigned) when it acts like cheap plastic crap.
So he has practice thinking about it. Practice being safe with the information (no belittling or sarcasm), practice trying again. We coach, and ask them to think about whether they want one CPC item now, or do they really want to save for something more lasting. We'll remind them of the things on their wish lists, but then step back out of the way and let them choose. The choice helps them think the next stage on the next item.
Between 7 and 8 was when my little brother (The Golden Child) started to notice that quality mattered. It was this age when he was crushed to be given a child's toy when I got a real necklace as a gift from the same out of town trip (parental). Things start to be real. The more they understand what real is, and the more comfortable they are with all that means for their choices, the more they can use that on the fly.
Granted, I suspect most people catch up - my kids will not be ahead of this game forever. But it is nice for them to feel confident of it now, to feel they have a sense of what is and is not quality, of what is worth their time and energy and allowance money. It makes the adventure more fun for them, too. They like to be able to impress (grownup) people with their manners, understanding, skill, and their willingness to take serious choices seriously. Their peers may not understand, but hey, they know they're weird kids, and that their peers don't 'get' them - that's not going to change. They'd be odd ducks (even if cool odd ducks) no matter what. At least they get some appreciation from the people they think matter - the ones who have expertise or skill or depth.
So, success. Mr G bought a ring he likes, and in so doing, gained the admiration of someone who knows a lot about jewelry. Mr B bought a wallet he likes, and in so doing gained the admiration of someone who knows leather.
And everyone else had a good time, we didn't create any problems for others on the street, everyone got fed when hungry, carried or strollered or rested on benches when tired, stuff to drink when thirsty, the chance to look at something cool or interesting to them, and consideration for their needs from the rest of the family.
Yeah, I'd call that a great adventure.
Meanwhile, my dad went back into surgery for a pacemaker. Sigh. But he's home now, and things are starting to settle in. He's feeling vulnerable, but grateful for family and life, and opportunities. Not so much grateful for the recovery period, but hey, I'll allow some grumping on that point.
More on the other adventures later...