Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Perception Trumps Reality


I have long (somewhat jokingly) labeled myself a pesi-optimist. I assume the worst will happen so I'm pleasantly surprised when the best happens. That's really not a true statement about myself, but it helps me shake off the little disappointments in life and appreciate the small wins as they come along. This evening was a good example of that.

Today was a gloriously beautiful day. It's actually starting to look and feel like Spring here in southern Minnesota. I'm even pretty sure I didn't see a snowflake all day long. So when I came home to my two little girls chomping at the bit to go outside, I was all game for it.

Having been a parent for a few years now, I have learned to read the signs of impending doom when it comes to my girls' attitude. They may be all smiles and giggles, but that doesn't fool me anymore...at least not all the time. A little snarl here. A quick, snippity answer there. Just a couple little signs that my girls are reaching the over-tired stage.

Our first step in the outside-play plan was bubbles in the back yard. It only took 30 seconds for them to come to the conclusion that the bubbles "didn't work" and they didn't want to use them. (No patience) Then they wanted to kick a ball around...no...ride scooters....wait a second...go for a bike ride. (Indecision) The tell-tale signs were adding up fast. I knew I had to act quickly.

We decided to just go for a quick walk and call it a day. After ten minutes of preparation (deciding to walk, ride scooters, push a doll stroller, which dolls or stuffed animals in the stroller....), we headed out on a daddy-daughter walk....with scooters (no stroller).

The first 30-40 feet went great. Once we got to the first corner though (we live on that corner), the argument began about which daughter got to pick the first change of direction. We jumped that hurdle in stride and set off down the street.

We made it half a block before shoes started falling off and an argument started about who got to be in front. Fortunately for me, I knew we had the argument of direction change at the next corner already decided.

The next two blocks were the biggest sign of a storm brewing. A duo-daughter meltdown....not the weather. The weather was still gorgeous. The sign I'm referring to is the fact that both girls were in top form. They were being polite and courteous with each other...and me. Once again, my limited father skills kicked in and I could tell this was the final calm before the storm.

We actually made it back to the point where we could see our house just two blocks away. I slipped out of my "prep for doom" mentality and thought for a  minute that we might just make it home intact. Then the storm hit.

Apparently each daughter wanted to walk on their own side of the street "like a big girl." I let them separate to opposite sides of the street and figured I would walk one block with Ziva and the final block with Siri. Off we went.

Ziva got upset because I was on her side of the street while her little sister got to be alone on the other side of the street. Apparently I was supposed to walk down the middle of the street with cars passing me on both sides?? Ziva, in a huff, decided to plant her feet and stop in place. That meant I had one daughter half a block ahead of me and the other half a block behind.

At the cross street, I switched over to Siri's side of the street. Once Ziva saw she was alone on her side, she brightened up and started moving towards home. Siri, on the other hand, commenced her meltdown. She went into full sit-on-the-ground-I'm-not budging mode. Oh well, one block to go, so I picked Siri (and her scooter) up and started carrying them both towards home.

It was at this point that one of our friends from church (and a teacher at Ziva's school) drove by in her minivan. I'll have to ask Laura B. how she perceived our little daddy-daughter walk. Did she see me and the girls out for a nice walk on a beautiful day? Or did she see a dad trying to hold it together with one daughter in full meltdown and the other booking it up the street?

Unless she had her windows up and stereo cranking, she couldn't have missed the fire engine-like roar emanating from my youngest as I carried her up the block. Considering everyone in the neighborhood had their windows open on this glorious day, they all got to appreciate the roar.

We made it home, got baths done and started our nightly before-bed routine. (For the record, the crying and screaming didn't stop until her bath was done.) I managed not to cry myself, so that's a plus.

At the end of the day, believe it or not, it was still a good evening. I got to enjoy the beautiful weather. I got a little walking exercise. I always enjoy time with my girls. My wife even got a few minutes of peace and quiet to herself while we were gone. (I'm not sure she really understands how to appreciate it though since she was probably doing things like dishes and laundry while we were gone.)

It's all how you look at or perceive what life throws at you. Sure, I got to "enjoy" a duo-daughter meltdown, but I could have been stuck at work and not gotten to spend the time with them at all. The girls may have been arguing over who got to go first at everything we did, but it's also a sign that they are both strong, independent young ladies. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

I am ready for Spring and Summer to finally be here so we have more opportunities to enjoy our little family walks and outdoor time. I will continue to try and focus on the fun we have rather than the struggles we endure. Perception really will trump reality every time. You just have to pick the right things to focus on so your perception is positive. Until next time....