The Reward and the Exhausted Mommy

The Tackler responds well to short-term goals and challenges. Especially if they come with an added reward.

Sure, some might call them “bribes”, but as they exist prior to any bad behavior occurring (as opposed to “stop this and you will get this”) I call them “rewards”.

One challenge was issued in January, and took far longer to achieve than I anticipated.

It was simple: receive five straight days of smiley faces at school, and we would go to the Austin Children’s Museum.

January passed.

Then February.

He would hit three or four days then talk during music time at lunch. Or not listen. Or (insert other Tackler behavior).

The smiley face counter would reset and begin again.

And again.

Over and over.

In hopes of making the goal more achievable, I told him any “outstanding day” would count double.

I reminded him of this the last week in March as Wednesday brought home his third smiley.

“You don’t have school on Friday (thanks to Good Friday), so if you want to go to the Children’s Museum this weekend, you have to have an outstanding on Thursday.”

To my surprise (and delight and horror), he did.

This meant two things.

One: I had to make good on my promise. (insert delight)

Two: Thanks to Easter weekend, the only day we had free to go was Friday—a day when my husband would be at work. I would have to track two children by myself in the insanity that is the Austin Children’s Museum. (insert horror)

But what is motherhood if not facing your fears (“I hope I don’t screw my kids up!”) and terror (“what if something happens to one of them?”) on a daily basis?

We drove to the metro rail station, hopped a train, and headed downtown.*

The excitement of getting to ride the train.

I am a surburbanite who hates trying to park downtown. The nice perk to this weekday excursion is the train was running (it doesn’t on weekend mornings which is ridiculous) so we used the opportunity for Lil Diva to have her first train ride (the Tackler had his with Daddy last fall when he went to LEGO fest).
Downside: you are stuck with the train schedule, which is only once an hour during the middle of the day.

We stayed for FIVE hours.

They played grocery store. Delivered milk bottles. Ran amok.

Drew with chalk.

Chalk is always fun.

The Tackler drew a palm tree, while I believe Lil Diva said her hieroglyphs were a duck and… something I can no longer remember 3 weeks later (hazards of sporadic posting).

Participated in an experiment for UT’s psychology department.

Created slime.

Slime is always fun.

The kids loved doing this–with Lil Diva wanting purple slime and The Tackler wanting yellow.

The Tackler surveyed the recycled “parts” in the workshop area, drew a blueprint, and built a robot.

Robot design and building

There were a few execution issues (like how to thread a pipe cleaner through for arms when the cork that was the “motor” inside blocked the way), but otherwise he did this 100% on his own.

Lil Diva demanded I create a mommy and a baby with pipe cleaners.

He built a tinker toy car.

She stacked blocks.

He went down the indoor slide.

She let a paper helicopter fly.

He catapulted ping pong balls using a paper cup glued to a paint stick with a wood block as a lever—supposedly aiming for the giant red “x” on the wall.

Beware: sticks will fly soon!

The Tackler was actually quite good at this, when he aimed.. Lil Diva lasted a few minutes and went to the train table

She caught the “magic” bubbles that didn’t pop unless you tapped them.

Lil Diva loves bubbles, especially ones you can catch!

She had the best time doing this. When the bubbles stopped, she had to run around and stomp on any remaining on the carpet…

The Golf Ball Collector.

One of Lil Diva’s favorite games was “golf ball collector”.

They both tested physics with golf balls, rolling them down roller coaster ramps or aiming for buckets.

Lil Diva loved gathering up all of the golf balls and running them up the stairs to the older kids for roller coaster launching.

The Tackler learned an important lesson about experimenting: sometimes you fail, but you learn from your mistakes. He built a ramp into a pegboard wall, but the ball would fall off partway through. I demonstrated how we had to remove the entire lower half, and how we had to test each new piece or everything after that point would be useless.

It took us thirty minutes of teamwork, but at the end he was thrilled with our result (note: this was tricky, because the ramp pieces were lightweight and would often work their way out of the wall if you didn’t push them back).

This is the final product (check out the second attempt when the ball drops, only to bounce and magically complete the bottom segment of the ramp).

And what is a museum visit without some train table action?

Large table, surprisingly few trains...

Fun fact: the first time we ever went to this museum, The Tackler was less than two. THE ONLY THING HE WANTED TO DO, was play with this giant train table.

Finally, Lil Diva demonstrated signs that we had been there for FIVE hours.

Taking a rest from the day.

I still had to drag her away. She did not want to leave this horse (note: I wish I had video of her “galloping” on it).

I didn’t lose my kids… for more than two minutes. And they weren’t really “lost” so much as “in the same room with me but somehow invisible to my eyes.”

They were a scary two minutes though.

We did EVERY SINGLE THING at the museum and they still didn’t want to leave.

But we were almost out of snacks.

You do not ever want to run out of snacks when out alone with two children.

Trust me.

We rode the train home, cries of “I’m still hungry” as they finished off the food.

We made it home without any meltdowns, something I’m quite certain would not have been the case if we’d waited for the next train.

Was it a nice relaxing day?

Um, no. Not even close. Five hours of constant vigilance is exhausting.

Did I still have wonderful time?

Hell yes.

And next time I will pack more snacks.

* * *

Have you ever offered a reward to your child then had a *moment* of regret when it was reached?

*Side note: I did not take my camera with me to the museum, only my iPad, hence the many blurry photos.
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About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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2 Responses to The Reward and the Exhausted Mommy

  1. Katie says:

    Definitely a reward, not a bribe. Really no different from a sticker chart, when you think about it. Little Man responds really well to these kinds of rewards also. The kid LOVES sticker charts in particular because he can track his progress, etc. I like the idea of the smiley face meter — that seems very effective for overall behavior. I don’t know that I’ve ever regretted any of the treats/rewards I’ve promised. They usually involve ice cream or cake of some sort, and how could I possibly regret that?

    • We used sticker charts to help potty train The Tackler–he loved them.

      I did have some time of “What the hell did I get myself into” by encouraging him to reach his goal on a day when I’d have to fly solo for the reward. It was far from relaxing but we did have an awesome time.

      I think he learned more science related stuff in the five hours there than in several weeks of school, so there is that added perk as well.

      If I didn’t have to worry about losing Lil Diva so much (as she does require aid to use the large toilets in public restrooms), it would have been much less stressful.

      Mmmm. cake.

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