I went on your field trip last week. Your class was going to Build-A-Bear where you get to stuff and accessorize your own stuffed animal. Neither of us had been before and we were excited. It was also my first time going on a field trip with you…perhaps my expectations were a little high.
The trip started out fine; even if you wanted to hold my hand at. all. times. After the bus ride to the mall we disembarked and entered what could only be classified as Santa’s Warehouse.
Dear Lord! So many stuffed animals and colors! I am an adult and I still wanted to run in and touch everything! Which is – of course – exactly what you and about 10% of the class attempted to do. Launch: wrangling sequence.
Eventually all of the children were name-tagged and directed to the first staging area: the wall of unstuffed animals. There had to be about 50 to choose from; bears, dogs, cats, ponies, ninja turtles – you name it. Alas, budget constraints limited today’s options to 3 shades of bear and a puppy.
Your classmates began to selected their animals. You, however, were busy clawing at the nametag on the back of your shirt like it was made of acid. You could just feel it whenever we tried to sneak it back on you. Clearly it was eating through your t-shirt. After 5 minutes of chasing and negotiating, I didn’t know where the dang thing got to, and – frankly – I didn’t give a flying fig. By that point the whole mall knew your name by the sheer number of times I’d shouted it. You picked a brown bear and we moved on.
Our lovely and engaging hostess (not sarcasm – she really was very good) lead the children in songs and then lined them up for the stuffing procedure. During this time you did an unsanctioned lap around the store, used the bathroom, attempted to pull various items off the shelves, and refused to communicate in any proper language outside of grunts and high-pitched squeals. Who needs a gym when you have a 3 year-old?
After your second escape attempt, I took you behind a display for a quick smack on the bottom and a short time-out, during which you turned in to a wet noddle in the middle of the t-shirt aisle. As long as you were a stationary wet noddle, I was satisfied.
When we returned to the general population you were last in line for stuffing; which was as it should be. We sat in front of the stuffing contraption and watched the action of limp cloth plumping up to become animals. When you started to kick and wriggle, we took selfies and I sang songs in your ear.
When that lost its novelty it was blessedly your turn at the machine. You got up, handed the gal your bear, and…ran off.
You had absolutely no interest in stuffing your bear or operating the machine. You wanted to touch the things. There were plush Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle weapons and bear-sized Spiderman t-shirts. There were mini-fireman’s costumes and stuffed animal grooming stations. There were little, red, plush convertibles for crying out loud!
By the time I returned (sweaty and wrung out) with you under my arm, your bear was ready for you.
The hostess then helped the kids put a little heart in to the back of the bears, which you vaguely participated in. Then all of the bears went in to a pile for lacing up. Everyone else sat on the floor and had songs and stories. Lucky you and me, however, had the great ‘Hide from Mommy Debacle’, followed shortly by the epic ‘Ten Minute Time-out’. For ten minutes you laid on the floor under a grooming station table in the corner of the store. Parents skirted us, classmates avoiding our self-imposed time-out-zone, and teachers nodded knowingly.
When we returned – again – they offered you your bear, all laced up and ready to go home. You didn’t want it; you left it on the floor (I picked it up later and gave it to your sister with your blessing).
Crap. There goes my leverage.
All morning long the mantra of the teachers was, “Be good, or you don’t get a bear.” “Be good, or I’ll take away your bear.” But what if the kid doesn’t want the bear?? I decided I needed to level up. What could I take away if you didn’t shape up?
It was so simple, really. Especially if you consider that your behavior was probably due in part to my presence. Immediately following your first tantrum of the day your teacher said to me, “Don’t worry. A lot of the kids act up when their parents come on the field trips, especially if it’s their first time.” So, if I was the problem, removing me seemed like a reasonable solution.
So, after we left the shop and convened in the mall lobby to wait for the bus, I presented you with my terms, “Buddy, you need to start listening or I need to leave.” You started jumping on a lobby couch. I picked you up, looked you in your eyes, and repeated, “Buddy, do you hear me? Start listening or I need to leave.” I put you down and…you ran off.
I chased you almost all the way to the mall doors. I walked you back to your teacher and planted you in front of her. “Here is buddy. His punishment is I’m leaving. I’ll be outside the mall doors.” And I left.
I could hear you crying for me before I hit the doors. I willed myself not to turn around. You would be fine. I hadn’t left you all alone, after all.
I stood outside for 3 loooong minutes. When I returned your teacher reinforced the lesson beautifully, “Your Mommy is back, but you need to listen, Buddy. Ok?”
You clambered in to my arms and gave me a big hug. I kissed your cheek and told you that I loved you. “You need to listen, ok? I love you, Buddy.”
Reunited and it felt so good.
You were excellent the rest of the trip. On the bus ride to the picnic site, during lunch, during bathroom break, and on the bus back to school. When you stepped out of line, you listened when corrected and followed instructions. FINALLY.
Unfortunately, by that point I was already physically and emotionally exhausted. I had held you, chased you, and lifted all 36 lbs of you for hours. I had been angry, worried, and embarrassed. I was ready for a nap. And, apparently, so were you…