“I don’t want to go for a walk. My boots hurt. It’s too cold. It’s too far. Why can’t we just stay at home? …”
When we set out for a walk with the dog last weekend, small daughter didn’t want to go. We’d decided to go to a forest about forty minutes’ drive away where the walking is excellent for a dog with a nose for interesting smells and small daughter grumbled all the way there. Admittedly, a lot of the grumbling was done under her breath so that nobody could really hear her, but there was still a black cloud hovering over the back seat of the car.
That’s the frustrating thing about being part of a family, isn’t it? As a child, you get taken to places that you might not choose to go to yourself, and as an adult, you bear the brunt of that child’s displeasure, which may or may not spoil your day out. It’s part of our everyday lives to see wailing children in supermarkets, at beaches, outside schools - anywhere, in fact – and we’ve all studiously ignored the parents either berating or reasoning with those children, mindful that we’ve all been the child or the parent ourselves.
Each family deals with these situations differently. Our method has always been to offer a choice; none of us like to feel steam-rollered into decisions and being offered choices gives you the power to take the option that suits you best. It’s always worked very well with our girls who have been (perhaps not surprisingly) strongly opinionated from being small. We told them, “It’s entirely up to you, you can … or …” so that they felt that they had some ownership in the decision they were making, even if the “or” choice was not one that they were ever going to choose. (I still use this method: “It’s entirely up to you, you can tidy your bedroom or you can have a poke in the eye.” Try it, it works!) Small daughter’s choice was to stay in the car or to join us on the bench outside the café where we ate bacon rolls and drank tea in the sunshine before our walk. I think you can guess which she picked!
It’s not always so easy when you’re an adult. We don’t always like the options and often the choices don’t feel like much of a choice at all. We can feel as powerless as children but unlike children, if we don’t like a situation we are able to look for an opportunity to change it. We’re privileged to live in a society where we have more choices than many and sometimes the only choice required is simply whether we appreciate it or not. Someone told me recently that in life I should “water the flowers, not the weeds”; in other words focus on what I have, not what I don’t have, and I think it’s a useful phrase to remember.
Of course, it’s entirely up to you …