James has just had a week off of work, and over the weekend we knew we really needed to do something as a family. James working in the catering industry means he rarely gets day’s off over the weekend so the opportunity to have a day or afternoon out all five of us is pretty limited. There is always cost implications to consider too.
We decided Sunday morning that we just had to go out. The weather was pleasant, we were all well rested after a pretty successful week of Hayden’s bed times and the boys had bundles of energy to lose. We thought about swimming but would cost us almost £25 for us all to go. Not an issue if there is an unlimited time to spend in the pool, but our local kid friendly pool operates a wristband system on busy periods. £25 is expensive if you are limited to just over an hour in the pool. We didn’t really want to risk it on a weekend day.
We also considered visiting Walton On The Naze, but with plenty of cliffs and enough steep drops to give me a heart attack we decided it wasn’t a wise idea on this occasion. We went with another nature reserve in the area, thinking it would be nice for all the family. Space for the boys to run around, a chance for James and I to get some fresh air and some natural beauty to use as a back drop for some lovely photo’s.
It started pretty well, we popped into the visitor centre to get a drink and the boys some crisps before we started our little walk, then we were on our way. We chose the disabled friendly trail as I had Kinley in the pushchair. That was when the fun stopped. Hayden clearly had more energy than we first thought, as he was off! He ran and ran and ran. Ellis kept trying to pull him back but before long Ellis figured if you can’t beat them, join them. Both boys were out of sight and weren’t stopping. James was trying to keep up with them but have you every tried running after a 5 year old? You need to be fit! No matter how many times we shouted stop, come back and wait they continued running. James and I were getting a little flustered, I was snapping because he wasn’t keeping up with them, he was snapping because they wouldn’t listen to him. Within about ten minutes I’d had enough. Why can’t we just have a nice day out without us ending up either arguing, being cross, getting stressed or ending up feeling like we wished we had just stayed at home. I snapped. I wasn’t prepared to carry on so turned around and headed back to the car. In the mean time James had managed to get both boys to come back and followed on behind me.
As we got back to the car I was more than ready to head back home again, but James wanted to give them another chance. Being (only slightly) stubborn, I dug my heels in, there was no way I was carrying on. James tried to use Ellis as a guilt trip which made me more cross. Eventually after much pleading from James and no movement from me, James took Ellis and Hayden off on his own.
I felt guilty, a little silly, but most of all I felt deflated. I so wanted a nice day out, I wanted a reason to give me the motivation to take them out more often without the fear that it will end in arguments and shouting. Why had I even bothered thinking we could have a nice day out?
This led to more guilt. We have energetic children, not devils. Boys are boys, kids are kids.
Lowering the expectation
When James returned to the car I apologised for getting stressed, stubborn and upset. We talked about it and both discussed that maybe our expectations were too high. Maybe trying to be a ‘normal’ family is not just for us, we have a child who has extra energy, isn’t afraid of danger and is a handful. We have another child who wants to be just like his big brother, and before long it will mean we have another child who will also copy them, but that doesn’t mean days out are impossible because of that. If we expect a challenge and don’t get one then at least we’re prepared.
Maybe it is time to lower our expectations. Maybe chaotic and stressful days out are our normal. And we need to learn to adapt to that rather than trying to force certain behaviours on Hayden that just aren’t natural to him. We need to make our days out fun, no matter what challenges we face, whether they are Hayden being Hayden or one of the other boys playing up on a particular day.
Staying home all the time isn’t an option. Next time I’m taking my running shoes*!