I have been thinking alot about being uncomfortable.
And how our/my culture coddles us, and makes us think we should not ever have to feel hungry, or hot, or bored (this is where snacks being available everywhere and DS systems come in, right?) Then we pass the avoidance of these discomforts on to our kids, who do not know how to handle really normal states of being that most of the world deals with pretty regularly.
I like to think I stretch myself frequently but I will admit that I have canceled opportunities to play or have fun, simply because the weather was too hot and I did not want to sweat. I have also caved in and served a mediocre dinner instead of making my kids wait a bit longer for something more nutritionally substantial because I did not want them to feel hungry for too long. (It is okay to feel hunger, right? I mean we will not die if we come to the table hungry. In the past, I have noticed my kids constant snacking really fed into their pickiness at the table.)
Each time I have been willing to embrace discomfort and push through the experience, the payoff has been worth it. Sometimes in big ways - like hiking up an old lava flow for hours in a downpour (with 3 kids) just to feel the total destructive potential of the earth. Or staying in a tiny cabin with no electric or water during a heat wave to understand the wisdom of a midday siesta.
Today, the discomfort was minimal, but I still almost let it change our schedule. We planned to walk to my daughters swim practice, but by the time we needed to leave it was raining pretty hard. I even emailed the coach, asking, "are we still having practice?" When he assured me that we were, we sucked it up, put on raincoats and walked just under a mile in an increasingly worsening storm. By the time we arrived, we were soaked through and cold, but had loved our walk. My kids marveled at the overflowed drainage areas and the rushing rivers on the stairs and walkways.We saw the familiar collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture on our neighborhood college campus become more sheltering and intimate than in the scorching days of summer. I was impressed, as always, at our good cheer and adventuring spirit and promised myself to always be willing to get a little more uncomfortable in order to live a lot more fully and embrace our daily lives - not just the ones with volcanoes.
These are all tested and guaranteed to keep your children somewhat happy while waiting for dinner (or anywhere else you are stuck). Yes, you can wait places with small children! No, you do not have to hand over your iphone!
1. Play ISpy. This is especially good at restaurants like Chili's and Cracker Barrel or any other eatery that covers the walls with architectural and domestic artifacts. In fact, this can lead to some really interesting conversations with older kids too.
2. Make up stories about the people you see. This might sound mean, but you can gently wonder about people, like why they are eating out, what their relationships are, etc. If you have very loud, talkative children, you might want to skip this one. I just read A Whole New Mind, by Daniel Pink and he even recommends this as a way to improve storytelling.
3. Use flashcards. No, I am not talking about Tiger Momming your kids! We have found really fun flashcards with animals, space, art, body parts and cars. They are fun to look at and great conversation starters. When we were preparing to go to Costa Rica, we would practice our Spanish words while waiting. When I was a younger and very ambitious mom, I even made my own arty cards out of index cards and magazine pictures, with things like food, and weird combination (a fish on a bike). For visually oriented kids, these can be consuming and enjoyable.
4. Bring pipe cleaners. For the kids who has to move his or her hands these are a life saver. You can mold them into little people, cars, monsters, etc. You can also make crowns, chains, and jewelry. I buy these at the dollar store and just keep a bunch in the glove box.
5. Taste test the condiments at the table. Well, this might be if you are really desperate. But, we have done this and it was fun, so I had to include it.
6. Bring or make a matchbox theatre. Inspired by the matchbox theatres we bought from Leaf Cutter Designs, we went on to make our own. Just an empty matchbox and some stickers on toothpicks and you are good to go. An alternative is to use the bigger matchbox and tiny toys. The key is the little window that directs attention to the "stage area." This is not high art, just silly stories that pass the time. Both kids and adults should tell the tales!
7. Read a book. This seems obvious but sometimes you just forget how simple it is to just read while you are waiting. I have a collection of small paperback story books that I keep in the passenger seat pocket of the car for times when we are stuck somewhere. Maybe print out some tiny books like this, this, or this.
8. Make some origami. Again, sounds so simple. I firmly believe that every person should have at least one origami design memorized. Why do I think this? Because I was once in an airport with a cranky 2.5 yo and 6 month old. We had been there a long time. An elderly man came up to us and speaking very little folded the most elegant little bird out of a piece of magazine paper. My daughter was mesmerized and her eye nearly popped out her head when he showed her how to pull at one bit to make the wings flap. Then he retreated, like a tiptoeing angel. So, your origami skills might be useful for your children, or any other children you come across in your adventures. Oh, and if you ever meet me in the airport, I will make you a box like this.
9. Tell knock knock jokes. Time to break out the horrible knock knocks from your childhood to unleash on your kids. I think most kids go through a knock knock phase; I especially love when kids make up their own jokes, that make no sense at all.
10. Play the question game. This is a game we made up and play at night, in the car or when bored waiting somewhere. It is really simple. The asker (me) quick fires simple questions to the kids.
Would you rather live underwater or in outer space?
What is your is favorite vegetable?
Would you rather be a gnome or fairy?
Peppermint or Berry toothpaste?
Top 3 ice cream toppings?
Which moon phase is the best?
How many kids do you want when you grow up?
If you could have any animal as a pet, what would it be?
Bike or Skateboard?
and so on. My kids love this game! I guess because they like to be heard and really like to share their opinions.
So, there you go. We have spend ALOT of time waiting around with kids over the last 10 years and this is my tried and true safety net of ideas. I would love to hear what other parents do to pass the time.
When my 5 year old was a newborn, I cut her thumb nail too close and it started bleeding profusely. I couldn't get it to stop so I called for my husband to get the Liquid Bandage. Keep in mind---my daughter was screaming the entire time. I held up her thumb while he dabbed on the Liquid Bandage, and I blew on it so it would dry. When I went to let go, I couldn't! My fingers were glued to her thumb! And she was still screaming. He then went to fetch some baby oil to put on our fingers to try to separate us. He put the bottle on top of her dresser while he inspected how he was going to do it. Right then, the cat jumped up, knocked the bottle of baby oil into an open drawer, and the drawer and the clothes inside got covered with it! Eventually, he managed to separate us, but I am still paranoid about cutting the kids' nails to this day.