Playin Hookie

I occasionally have Thursday off, and this was one of those Thursdays.  I enjoy getting to take and pick up Maycee to/from school; I enjoy the alone time I get with Hadley.  It’s usually a good day to catch up on some things that otherwise would require a day of the week that begins with S or S to get done.  

But one of the things I do miss, is being able to take the girls down to Rich’s work to meet him for lunch.  Since Maycee is at school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’ve come across the delema on multiple occasions: do I let Maycee play hookie for some time with Daddy (this is really the last school year I can justify doing this!); or is it a bad example for her very long future as a student?  I have answered the latter on at least 10 opportunities this school-year...but this time, I decided we were gonna play hookie.  I did it with a very stern lecture beforehand about this being a special, one-time occurrence, and that she can’t just say she doesn’t want to go to school so that we can do this again (Hillary, it is just preschool for goodness sake; shoot, I PAID for this day of hookie).

So, we headed down to meet Rich down at his office.  Every time I make this drive I am thankful for the fact that he RARELY, if ever, complains about this commute.  That being said, heading South on the 15 San-Diego-Way is really a pretty drive (much prettier than say, heading north or LA-Way).  And to make it all especially nice, it was a cloudy day.  I love the clouds, they comfort me and take me back to my PNW days, they give me energy and give my senses something new to focus on.  Moving down to Southern California to be in a perpetual landscape of palm trees against a clear blue sky was a dream come true in my 20’s.  And while I’ve really come to love the Temecula Valley, I sure do appreciate those clouds.  I think they make the sky more interesting.  They actually make me look at the sky.  They cause me to look at my surroundings, and the beautiful landscape in which we live.  With the backdrop of a grey, cloudy sky, all of a sudden, the colors seem more vibrant in the foreground, my thoughts and attitude feel grounded again, I notice more of what’s around me, and I smell the green of the plants I walk by.  

As it always seems to happen, the girls’ questions and bickering in the back seat gave way to falling asleep IN THE LAST FIVE MINUTES OF THE TRIP.  We went up to say hey to Rich’s co-workers, or, in Maycee terms, “I’m four”!.  Then Rich took us to Las Olas for some Mexican food.  It was great!  Besides, they had a pineapple on the wall!  An hour to eat lunch just doesn’t seem long enough!  But at least we got to hang with Daddy for a bit! 

So, to make playing hookie a memorable event, I decided to surprise the girls with a plan that they had nothing to do with creating: the Birch Aquarium at Scripps.  I’ve had someone ask me if Maycee and I are alike.  I am usually quicker to think of how she and Rich are so alike...but how Maycee and I interacted over the surprise brought out a similarity that we share.  I wish it was something cool, but what we share is a need for control.  Yup.  I said it.  

So I’m driving the 15 miles from Rich’s work to the Birch Aquarium, on the beautiful 101 freeway, trying to point out the ocean view, the pelicans...meanwhile May is asking, 

Why are we going this way?  Are we going home?  

No Maycee, I’m going to go a different way.  

But why Mom?  

Because this way looks cool.

What looks cool Mom? Why are you going this way, Mom?  Mom…Mom...

Feeling the struggle build within me (which seems even sillier to me now to type it out), I was holding on tight to the fact that I really wanted to pull off a surprise.  Me, wanting control, I wanted to pull off a surprise in the way that I pictured pulling off a surprise.  I guess means I thought I would just drive there, pull them out of the car and their jaws would drop in amazement, they would jump up and down unable to withold their if they wouldn’t ask questions!?  So I waste time feeling irritated and interrogated by my 4 year old...feeling sure that she is trying to sabotage my surprise, my cool mom joy -- when I should have forced myself to roll with it and be flexible and fun with my daughter’s inquisitive mind.  So, eventually but reluctantly, I decide to give in a little.    

Because I have a surprise.

You do??  What is the surprise Mom?

I can’t tell you because it wouldn’t be a surprise anymore.  

But I can tell you it’s a place.  The surprise is a place.

See, Hillary, it feels fine to give in a little.  The girls got excited, it still felt like a surprise to all of us, and we had a good 2 hours worth of fun there.  

I’m not sure if I’m portraying the power struggle I have with Mayson well enough; I’m not sure if this is the best example...and I’m sure a better one will spark another blog entry.  But these little 5 mile stretches of both of us trying to gain a little control over a situation is where I need to improve.  She’s 4.  She’s not trying to sabotage me.  She’s not interrogating me.  She may, however, sense my secretiveness and be digging a little harder than usual to figure out what’s going on.  I need to find a better way to handle those 5 mile stretches (sometimes 10, 15, 20 miles!).  Because I don’t want to waste time trying so hard to keep control of things the way I picture them to be, that I’m not thinking of creative ways to interact with and stimulate my wonderfully active 4 year old daughter’s mind.  

All in all, I think the girls had a good time at the Birch Aquarium.  While I didn’t get the reaction out of them that I had created in my head, the way they looked at the fish, talked to them, imitated them and looked wide-eyed at them, I’d have to say their reactions were more realistic and genuine than my imagination had created anyway.

Which points to how dangerous the need for control can be:  It created tension in the car over something I intended to be fun.  And in trying so hard to create the image I had in my head, there was a good chance that I would have left disappointed, that their natural and honest reaction to my surprise was not as dramatic as the scene I was trying so hard to control and create.  So really I sabotaged myself.   

 © Houseman 2013