Sunday, May 6, 2007

A day in the life

Occasionally, all the stars align just perfectly so that there are a million really cool things to do in Seattle all in one short 24 hour period. This always sends me into existential crisis. Can I do them all? Can I justify dragging the kids to all of them? How many of them have true education opportunity? What about my commitment to create a peaceful world for my children and respect their needs for quiet space and puttering time?

Yesterday was one of those days. The lineup was huge: Seattle Tilth edible plant sale, a co-housing clothing swap, Open Day for boating season complete with boat parade just blocks from our house, free comic book day, a friend’s birthday party. Besides, of course, our normal Saturday routine of Aikido class, the grocery store and naps.

The kids and I quickly jettisoned aikido and the grocery store (who needs food?). The Tilth sale ranks high on my priority list – the master gardeners tell me which plants to use in what parts of my gardens and provide me with healthy little specimens I’m not too likely to kill. Plus there are crafts and Mighty-O-doughnuts!

Since free comic book day fell out of our heads, that left Opening Day, the clothing swap and the birthday. Turns out the birthday was a ride on the amphibious Duck boats and Theo was the only child his friend had invited. The special honor and the favored event closed that deal for us, the only trick being that Theo needed one of his parents along to feel safe. And if Theo and a parent went, Rosie NEEDED to go, too. Oh, and my brother had my car for the day to attend a hockey tournament in Everett.

Friday night Bill and I realized we needed a plan. A few minutes at the dining room table and several calls to the birthday family gelled everything for us.

Here is how it went:
Phase 1: Bill worked while the kids and I enjoyed the Tilth sale. We got a wagon full of plants, visited with a few friends, made pipe-cleaner arts galore and ate donuts until the line wait dwindled from 1 1/2 hours to a quick 15 minutes. We paid for our plants, did a little swinging at the playground, then Rosie dropped off for a nap on the way home.
Phase 2: While Rosie slept in her carseat and I made a car-edible lunch, Bill finished up working and Theo had some quiet time reading in the kid bedroom. After she woke up, Bill and the kids gathered up a few more clothes for the swap, and we headed out.
Phase 3: We met our birthday friends at the clothing swap, and after a couple of minutes at the swap (just enough for Theo to decide it was boring), they headed off for the Duck ride. Rosie had a mild crisis over the pack splitting up – she wanted to be with Mommy and she really wanted to ride the boats. In the end, the Ducks beat out mama and they were off.
Phase 4: I spent a fun half an hour trying on clothes with a dozen other women, claimed my treasures, and went home with Leah and Sophie, mom and sister of birthday boy. I enjoyed our quiet time of chatting over trimming rhubarb, cleaning strawberries and threading fruit kabobs.
Phase 5: The boat riders called to annouce the ride was over and suggested bringing home Thai food rather than meeting at the restaurant. They soon arrived, the kids made straight for the digging area, and we adults made up plates for everyone. The food was great, the adult conversation was engaging and the kids even managed to eat a few bites between stages of play. Ahhh.

24 hours after coming up with our Saturday master plan, we were back at the dining room table feeding our kids rice porridge and doing a clothing-swap fasion show. We marveled at how fun and peaceful our action packed day turned out to be.

Not every big day out works so wonderfully for our family, here are some important points about what worked well for us this time:
- Bill and I made a plan. We considered most of the options at hand and chose the ones we though would meet everyone's needs the best, yet at the same time being aware of our family as a whole.
- Every "event" in our day respected our children's needs to be kids: doing crafts at the Tilth sale, meeting up with friends at the clothing swap, playing baseball after eating take out rather than sitting quietly in a restaurant for dinner
- Our plans were flexible. Originally, I was going to accompany both kids on the boat ride, but Bill really wanted to be included, so we swapped. This gave him a fun adventure with the kids and face time with a dad with whom he shares parenting values. It gave me focused non-kid time at the swap and let me off the hook for the Duck ride, about which I was mildly enthusiastic. We choose to have take out instead of eat in the restaurant, this gave the kids freedom to play together without us getting after them to sit still and use medium voices. Both my kids need puttering time everyday, and they got to share it with their friends.
- Our kids got to make choices. Because they value costumes and exciting wardrobes so much, the clothing swap excited them. And as soon as it got boring they had an out. Rosie, though stressed by the choice, got to pick what was most meaningful to her.
- We had some quiet time at home in the middle of the day. Turns out that even the short 45 minutes we were home recharged everyone's batteries. The peace of our own food, our own beds and the comfort of our own home power us to go back out into the world.

As a record, Bill took a picture of me in all my clothing swap glory, making the rice porridge!

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