Wow. I have no idea the good time we are in for.
Almost to the exit, she wants to see the monster trucks one more time, so we duck into the main pavilion to sit and watch the monster truck races till 5:30, when I tell her it is time to go.
"Noooo!" she begs me. Couldn't we ride just one more ride?? She doesn't want to go home just yet.
Well, if she is up for more walking around, I suppose I am too. I tell her she won't be tall enough for any of the rides, but we can walk back towards the midway and have a look. On the way, we get kettle corn then walk through the shopping pavilions. We look at all kinds of things I had no idea we needed, but realize I can't live without.
We walk through the midway, looking at all the rides that Jane is too small to ride. I buy Jane a rainbow-swirl lollipop. The sun is setting. It is time to go.
This time when I tell Jane we have to go she has a full-on melt-down. She begins to cry and scream, refuses to follow me, and doesn't want me to take her hand to lead her. If it had been me causing this scene when I was 3-1/2-years old, my candy would have been thrown in the trash and I would probably have been taken to the restroom (or not) for a spanking. The beatings would have continued until morale improved. It was simply the way things were done, and it wasn't really questioned. I never questioned it till Jane came along. But I really wanted there to be a better way.
We've chosen not to spank Jane because we think there are better ways of teaching kids to make the right decisions. But not spanking your kids requires you to really think, and forces you to teach self-discipline by modeling self-discipline. The whole, "How can you expect your kid to learn to control himself in the heat of the moment if you are unable/unwilling to control yourself in the heat of the moment?" thing.
Because we are trying to adopt another child, the State of California has mandated that we take parenting classes as part of our certification. Steve and I found the first 40 hours of classes so helpful (minimum is 36 hours of instruction) that we recently signed up for more. Here was my chance to put some of those lessons to the test.
With Jane screaming and crying, amidst a sea of people I take her wrist in my hand, I take away her lollipop before it gets dropped or stuck on me (which brings on bigger wails from her), and lead her from the middle of the crowd about 50 yards away to a bench, where I put down my bags, place her lollipop on top of one of my boxes, pick her up, put her in my lap and begin to rock her gently, stroking her head and telling her quietly, "You're OK, Jane. I've got you. I'm here. You're OK."
The conversation goes like this:
Me: Honey, come on, you know we have to go home some time...
Jane: (shakes head violently and sobs) Don't wanna go home!
Me: We had a lot of fun today! Don't you want to tell Daddy about it?
Jane: (hesitates, continues to sob) Don't wanna go home!
I think to myself, Aw man, this is not working! Why isn't this working?! She's still crying. What do I say? I can't carry my bags and her all the way to the car.
Then it hits me.
Me: Jane, are you afraid that if you leave and go home, you won't ever have this much fun again?
Jane: (stops crying, sniffles, nods head, then continues to sob)
Wow. I've been there. I've been in places and moments I wished could last forever, and would've done anything to hold the moment just a bit longer. I know exactly how she feels. No wonder she's so sad and so afraid.
I hold her and rock her a bit more, letting her calm down.
Me: Jane, do you remember when Kay Kay visited and you played and played, and when she had to go you were angry and didn't want her to go because you didn't want the fun to end?
Jane: (nods head)
Me: And do you remember when Grandmother was here and you played at the playground, and when she told you it was time to go you got very angry and kicked her because you didn't want to go home?
Jane: (nods head)
Me: I think you were afraid that you wouldn't ever be able to have so much fun as you were having right then, and you didn't want it to stop. But there's always another time to play and have fun. It won't be the same, but it will still be fun...
I stop here, remembering I'm not going to teach her much while she is still in a distressed state. I ask her if I may sing her the Old Lady and the Fly song. She doesn't object, so I sing, "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly..."
I can't tell if it is having any effect until I miss a verse and Jane corrects me. We chuckle together about the old lady eating a horse, and I know Jane is mostly back to normal. I go to give her the lollipop, but it is stuck to the box (thankfully a glossy box, so it comes off easily). We chuckle about the stuck lollipop, and I ask Jane if she is ready to go. Yes, she is.
We walk hand in hand to the exit, get on the tram to the parking lot, chat about the cars in the lot and the passengers on the tram and about the monster trucks we had watched until we return to the car.
Of course within minutes of leaving the fairgrounds, Jane is asleep, exhausted from a long day of fun.
Tomorrow morning or maybe the next when we're both fresh, I'll talk to Jane about saying goodnight to the fun, and about finding ways to minimize the fear that she will never have fun again. I'm not sure how to do this for such a strong-willed and high-energy child as Jane, but I do know that as her parent, it's my job to teach her how to keep from stressing out in stressful situations. I know I won't do that by teaching her to fear me, but by strengthening the bond between us.
If you are interested in the techniques of this parenting method, I recommend Parenting with Love and Logic, and Beyond Consequences. There is a lot of good information in both books.