Freedom from Whining
Do you want freedom from whining? Although I can’t guarantee to remove it in all aspects of your life my wife helped me realize one solid strategy for freeing yourself from whining during planned family excursions/activities:
Leave your kids at home.
This Independence Day we had friends visiting from San Antonio. They went on a cruise from NYC and I convinced/invited them to take a swing up to us since they were already on the east coast. They had limited time and had never been to Boston before. I wanted to show them what I could so they 1) would feel the money they spent on their side trip was worthwhile and 2) they would want to come visit us again! (Note: this philosophy assumes you want your house guests to come again)
Since it was around the 4th of July and we live in the Boston area I thought some Revolutionary War history was in order. Much like our founding fathers I was determined to ensure our pursuit of happiness so I planned an excursion to the Old North Bridge. Located in Concord, the bridge is only about 30 minutes away from us. Perfectly spaced to allow us to get there, look around and be home in time to get ice cream before we headed out to fireworks (the fireworks display we go to is on July 3rd).
The kids were not thrilled about it. They have morning camp activities and like to chill at home for a bit before they head out to other activities but we had to get going. It was also a hot day. In the 90s with humidity. Not a recipe for success.
We got there in good time but all we had to do was get out of the car for the whining to start. It was 1/4 mile from the parking lot to the bridge and by 1/8th of a mile most of the kids were not having it. We got to the bridge, took the pictures, allowed my friends to briefly soak in the history and decided to cancel the rest of our plan (Lexington Green, walking along the Battle Road) and head to our favorite ice cream place.
The next morning was the 4th of July. Before a swim party and cook out I thought the whole family could head in to Boston to attend a reading of the Declaration of Independence, walk part of the Freedom Trail and get cannoli from Mike’s Pastry. We were tired and slow going from the previous night’s fireworks and canned the idea of the reading. But hey! we could still walk the Freedom Trail and get cannoli!
Well, some of the kids didn’t want to go. They didn’t care about history, they didn’t want to walk and they just wanted to stay home and then go to the pool party. I wanted everyone to come so we could spend time with our friends and do something (I thought was) fun. This sojourn in freedom was to be a family activity.
I freely admit that I am often a stubborn “I Say it-You Do it” parent. This does not always work well. Really, it hardly ever works well. Thankfully my wife has a different style and knows when to change tactics when I don’t. She discussed it with the kids and said she would stay home with the nay-sayers and get some things done in the house with them. I would take our guests and those who wanted to go adventuring in Boston.
I admit I was frustrated. This was supposed to be a family outing! I denied all non-attending children cannoli! After some back and “fourth” (get it) we got our two youngest ready and in the car along with the guests. It wasn’t my ideal scenario. I was going with our two least mobile kids (4 and 5).
As we drove into Boston the more I thought about it the more I realized how ridiculous I was being. My wife kept a kid home who literally would have whined the ENTIRE time (he was having a hard week). I was annoyed because now I would only have to maneuver 3 adults and 2 kids (in 1 double stroller) through July 4 Freedom Trail crowds instead of 4 adults and 4 kids? The kids who did come, although young, are the most up for adventure and usually are quite content to just sit in the stroller and people watch. I also remembered a conversation with a friend who related how she also left kids at home when they balked at a planned activity and how pleasant the result was.
The kids did great in the heat and my friends were gracious and understood the limitations of sightseeing with children. They even pushed the stroller the entire walk. We walked a good portion of the Freedom Trail and I relayed the facts I remembered from Duck Boat tours and showed my amazing ability to provide facts from signs readily available to all. By the time we got to Mike’s Pastry we were all ready to get some treats (I bought some for everyone, not just the ones who came) and head back to the car. We made it to the pool party only a little bit late.
In the end, leaving the uninterested at home worked for us this time. It was a good learning experience for me and my kids. Sometimes there will be a choice to stay or go. It truly can be okay if kids choose not to come. As a parent I deserve to have a nice time too and arguing with a whining kid for a 2-hour walk through Boston is not fun. My kids learned that staying home from an adventure will mean you also sometimes forgo unplanned surprises along the way (my friends bought the kids slurpees). They also learned that if they stay home they will be put to work. We came home to a clean house. Win-Win!
So don’t feel bad if you plan something and your kids don’t want to go. If they can stay home, let them. Chances are things will work out fine.