Yesterday, we went straight from ballet to the pool at the YMCA. In order to do this, we had to pack swimsuits, towels and snacks before leaving home at 11:30. I squeezed in a workout after about an hour of reading, leaving us with not much time for last minute packing. (The mornings certainly go by quickly when your children let you sleep until 8 AM.) Before hopping in the shower, I gave the girls their instructions:
"B, please pack snacks for the pool."I came downstairs to find K in her swimsuit. Not exactly following my instructions since we were going to the Parthenon before the pool and a swimsuit wasn't appropriate. So I told her to put clothes on and put her swimsuit in the bag. In a few minutes we were off and on our way, the girls having downed Easy Mac for lunch and A's hair fastened in a bun.
"A, get your ballet clothes on and have your ballet bag ready to go."
"K, put your swimsuit in the pool bag."
The Parthenon was an interesting visit and a good way to kill some time during a session of ballet. We talked about the Elgin marbles, attempted to identify Greek gods and goddesses by their weaponry and chose our favorite pediment sculpture. All while we walked around in an air-conditioned building - a good choice for a day when the heat index was well above 100.
Upon arriving at the pool (after a detour to the ice cream shop), I reached into the bag and started pulling out towels. I found my swim suit and B's swimsuit. A had her swimsuit on, having changed after ballet. K's swim suit? Not. In. The. Bag. I froze and looked up at K, "Did you put your swimsuit in the bag?" Stricken, she replied, "I don't think so."
I gave the girls two choices: we could either go home and stay home or stay at the pool. It was hot. It was mid-afternoon. I wasn't going to make a trip home and then lug everyone back to the pool. We all agreed to stay and B and I headed inside to change. As we walked into the locker room, B said to me, "Do you even feel bad for K? Because you're not acting like you do." Ouch. This kid does not mince words.
I explained that I did, in fact, feel bad for K, but that I also thought she would learn to listen to instructions if she had to live with consequences for forgetting things. B shrugged and put her suit on. We emerged to find A in the pool and K sitting in a chair in the shade. I sat down with her, offered her a snack and told her I was really sorry she had forgotten her suit. And then the most amazing hour and a half ensued.
K sat with me, ate some cherries and chatted. But she did not complain. She did not whine. She did not pout. When A and B went to the indoor pool to swim, K asked if she could go and watch them. Other than that, she sat with me while I read and told me some stories and suffered her consequence with great grace. The only thing she said, about an hour into pool time, was, "Can we leave at the next swim break?" I assured her that we could and told her she was doing a great job.
She did such a great job that when we got home K was allowed to choose and watch a television show all alone. (A great treat in our house.) I explained that she was getting this reward for her amazing behavior. I complimented her on the way she didn't let her anger or sadness get the best of her. She and I have talked a lot lately about controlling her emotions instead of letting her emotions control her. This was a great example of K being in control. A and B agreed that K did a great job and both admitted they probably wouldn't have been able to behave as well as she did.
K is not my most self-controlled child. She feels deeply and doesn't work very hard to filter her feelings in a way that makes it easy for others. She's also the youngest of three and has her fair of enabling - from everyone in our family. Given all of this, I think it's noteworthy for K to be setting an example for the rest of us.
How do I react when I forget something? When I misinterpret, misunderstand or flat-out forget the instructions? How would I feel sitting at the pool in 100 degree heat without my swim suit? I'll tell you what I do. I beat myself up. I shame myself. I probably suffer more silently than most seven year olds, but inside I am yelling at myself. I am pouting. I am whining. None of us get through life - or even a week - without making a mistake. Some mistakes are more visible than others. Some have bigger, broader consequences. I hope the next time I slip up, I'll remember K sitting in the shade at the Y in her dress, not complaining, just accepting. I can certainly learn from her example.