Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Great Time

We had signed up for a really cool program called the "Little Naturalist" at a local park and I was excited about bringing the kids. They planned a short lesson, a nature walk to find a specific bird and then an art project. When I called to sign-up, however, they seemed less than welcoming. 

"You do know that the program is for preschoolers. You have a two year old and a seven year old that don't fit in those parameters." 
I took a deep breath, tried to be patient and said, "Yes, but I'm sure they would enjoy it. I'm not worried about it." But she wasn't quite ready to let it go.
"Are you sure you're going to be able to control all three children? Maybe you could bring someone to help you."
Control my children? Was she serious? "Ummm...I will control them as much as it's possible to control three children. I don't need help. I'm with them every day."
She paused for a moment, deciding whether or not to push this further. "If other children in the proper age group sign up, I will have to bump your seven year old's spot."
"Fine. That's fine. Just call if you do."
I hung up feeling very put off. Should I even go? Yes, I decided, we should. Forget her negativity - This is something my kids would love.

I unbuckled my daughter and told them that they needed to be good listeners. I told them it was important to follow directions then set them loose on the playground near the nature center. Just as the class was about to begin, I corralled them to the pavilion. The boys sat down to listen but my daughter wasn't too interested. "Snack?" she asked. "Me, eat?"

I, of course, had left the snacks in the car. "Sure, babe. Let's go. Boys, I'll be right back," I whispered.
We trekked to the car and back to the pavilion to have a snack. But then all the kids wanted a snack. Every preschooler perked up at the sight of string cheese and began interrupting the teacher. "Can I have a snack?" And "I'm hungry too!" I mouthed an apology as I scooped up my daughter.

"Pee pee now!" My little girl announced, dropping her string cheese and clutching her privates. 
"Okay! Okay baby. Let's go!" We hiked to the bathrooms and, thankfully, she made it. But as we made our exit, I realized the kids were no longer in the pavilion.
I spotted my four year old tailing the group and hustled to meet up with them. "He was really worried that you wouldn't come back," one mom confided in me. Great.
"Buddy, I will always come back. Let's go find the scrub jays!" The boys held my hands to be sure I meant it and my daughter begged to be held. "I can't, love. Let's just walk a little bit, okay?!" I heard my voice taking on that high pitch quality that only comes out when things get stressful.
"Mommy! Wait! I can't keep my shoes on!" my four year old yelled. He struggled to put his new flip flops back on and I muttered under my breath about letting him wear these shoes. Poor kid can't walk ten feet in them without them falling off. 
"Just go barefoot, honey. You'll be okay on the sandy trail."
"Umm, I would be careful," said yet another helpful mom. "There are lots of prickly patches of grass on this trail." Great.

Finally, we made it to the end of our adventure. We came in covered in sweat and 100 yards behind everybody else but we had found two scrub jays and a gopher tortoise. My oldest had taken countless pictures and he was breathless in his excitement. "Great time," my daughter said quietly as we rounded the corner to the pavilion. "What did you say, love?" I asked her, thinking I had heard her incorrectly.

"Me...Great time. Tanks, Mommy." She wrapped me in a hug and suddenly the experience was reframed. It didn't matter if the organizer thought I couldn't "control" my children. It didn't matter what the other mothers thought of me. What mattered was that my kids had a great time. We had made a memory together, even if it was filled with craziness. It's something to look back on and laugh about together. It was an opportunity to learn something new.

If there is someone in your life that is questioning your decisions or making your feel insecure about your abilities, throw their words away. Embrace what is important to you and what you know God is calling you to do. Their opinions are just that - opinions. They do not define you. So go on, get out there and have a "great time" today. 

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