Suburban Snapshots

My Best Intentions Are All
Shot To Hell

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I just don't learn. I don't learn and I end up frustrated, annoyed, — mostly at myself — and exhausted.

We've been having a really good time this summer, getting out and spending time together, making plans for overnights and theme parks, taking spontaneous ice cream runs after dinner and walks around the block before bed. While we've overall enjoyed this together-time, I think sometimes we expect a little too much from the three-year-old, like an attention span.

Steve takes the collapse of our plans in stride. He doles out the discipline, collects the offending preschooler and initiates the exit strategy. I, on the other hand, feel defeated, failed, I wonder if other families really have quality time or if they just don't post the tantrum pictures to Facebook.

The scenario follows a familiar pattern: we decide on an activity Anna enjoys, we initiate said activity with all the optimism of people who've never actually taken a three-year-old out of the house, halfway through activity we observe things beginning to go to hell, activity ends in sweat, tears, and kid-friendly swear alternatives.

Tonight it was the ice cream stand. It's a perfect night, crickets chirping, a warm breeze, a gorgeous sunset, I didn't feel bloated. Anna was so excited at the prospect of her own cone with sprinkles (let's never mention "jimmies") that she ate almost an entire half sandwich at my first request. She marched to the car and buckled without twenty minutes of stalling, she held my hand as we crossed the parking lot to the order window. She charmed the teenager at the counter with her giant smile and polite, enthusiastic request for vanilla with sprinkles; the whole scene was so New England Summer I half expected a J. Crew photo shoot to break out around us.

Then she took her cone and sprinted away from me across three parking spaces. I wrangled her to our table where she abandoned her ice cream in favor of unstacking all the booster seats and reorganizing the rack of tourist brochures. All I wanted was ten minutes to fellate enjoy some mint chocolate chip ice cream, and instead it puddled at the table while I helped Anna put the dining room back together. This wasn't how I pictured our evening out. I'd been punk'd.

So what am I doing wrong? Maybe I need to lower my expectations, maybe I'm not firm enough, or maybe no one has a kid whose ice cream gets eaten right down to the pointy end of the cone. I'm going to think about it while I suck the rest of this hot fudge from under my fingernails.

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