Sticking to the consequences.

by Jennifer Dyer

Inside I think I’m about as tough as jello left out in the hot sun. As you can imagine, that personality trait does not always lend itself to raising children with great character. Sticking to the consequences is tough.

A few weeks ago, we planned to visit Great Wolf Lodge again. The first trip had been challenging, but for some reason hubby and I both took temporary leave from our senses and bought another Groupon. So, here we were on a Thursday night preparing for another two days of marinating in chlorine and rubbing shoulders with 1,000’s of our closest friends strangers.

If you’ve never been there, it is a really nice place. In addition to the waterpark, there is also MagicQuest, which entails running up and down stairs for hours waving a $$ wand at boxes and some other stuff that I don’t know because I’ve never done it, but the kids love it. And it wears them out. A brilliant plan on GWL’s part, if you ask me.

So, as I mentioned, the wands are expensive. Last trip, a wand came with our package, so no problem, but this trip was different. For weeks I’d been telling Eldest to find her wand. The night before we left, I decided to make a sweep for said wand in case Rachel had stashed it somewhere.

I went through the ball pit. Although I found no wand, I did find out where all the Easter Eggs and Starbursts had gone–at least the half-chewed ones. Nice. I also found my nephew’s entire collection of dinosaurs, a few toy snakes, a broom, three jump ropes, and the lost map to Atlantis. But no wand.

I moved furniture in the game room, cleaned out baskets, reorganized toys, and … well, you get the picture. Mom was working up a sweat.

And the kids watched TV.

Hmm.

At the end of the night, no wand had appeared, and the only one putting effort into the search was Mom, the person who wasn’t going to use it. So, I had some sad news to deliver.

Hubby and I, long faces on, informed Eldest that we would have coughed up the cash for another wand if we’d seen any sort of effort made toward finding ours. Now my goal is not to embarrass Eldest, so enough about that.

My point is I was totally sad to dish out that consequence! Here we were about to take a trip where half the fun is that Quest game and we were having to say tough luck, kid. It stunk. I was so tempted to cave, to buy another wand, to play the game with her. To watch her giggle and run. We were going on a mini vacation, after all. We’d paid all that $$$ to stay there and we wouldn’t get to enjoy one of the biggest attractions.

At the hotel, I almost gave in. She didn’t ask, but it seemed like EVERYONE was playing the game, running, and laughing. Everyone, except us.

Phooey.

But we didn’t give in. It’s the little consequences like this one that build character. It’s not easy. It’s more fun to give in, to enjoy the moment, but the long-term consequences of me caving would be raising a child who didn’t believe in consequences. A kid who thinks “the rules don’t apply to me. It doesn’t matter what I do, I’ll still get my way.” In other words, a spoiled brat who doesn’t think about how his or her actions affect other people.

So, in the short term, it was no fun. In the long-term, though, I’m so glad I stayed tough.

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Traveling with Rachel.

Traveling with an autistic child has opened a new world of stress in our lives. I’ve chronicled many journeys in my MomLife Today blogs. This past weekend we braved the road for another trip. And … it went well.

Former trips have involved driving while our daughter strips naked, challenging potty breaks, and screaming for a stuffed duck.

This time, we prepared for all disasters we could anticipate. Packed the car video playing, which broke five minutes into the trip. Loaded the IPod with her favorite songs, which she ended up not using. We even packed a host of her favorite foods, which got eaten … by the dog.

But even with all of those mishaps, things went well. As we usually go to my sister’s, Rachel knew where she would sleep, what she needed, and even knew the places we stopped to go to the bathroom. On the way home she cried some, but not the six-hour scream fest we usually experience.

What was the difference? One, I think she has the routine down. We don’t deviate too much from our typical travels. We stopped at the same places and stayed at the same house. Two, through our work with Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) we have come so far. Rachel can handle more unpredictable routines and events. She can communicate better. She is better in general.

If we have to travel somewhere new? Here are some things I would consider:

  • Stop at the same type of places, as least some of the time. Yes, exploring new places is great, but there is something to be said for keeping the peace. If it is a regular rest stop, then choose perhaps the same fast food place, as their interiors can be consistent. This helps Rachel get her business done.
  • Plan for a regular bedtime and bring something (blankets, noise machine, music, stuffed animals, pajamas, a night light, or other familiar objects) that can help make the setting familiar. We find that even leaving on a lamp in the room helps Rachel settle down when she wakes up during the night.
  • Don’t plan too much. When we try to cram too much into holidays, Rachel becomes distraught. This means saying no to fun family events, or cutting them very short, but remember that each positive trip will build into the next one.
  • Share the duties with a spouse or other person. This past weekend, for example, we had an ice skating party to attend. Hubby took Rachel to his parents’ house while I went to the party. We knew the noise, crowd, and ice would stress Rachel, so we avoided the issue. If you all need to go, don’t be shy about recruiting others to help. I would take a cousin or other person along to help entertain Rachel. (A gift of thanks or a little cash for their help never hurts, too…)
  • Be flexible. Sometimes plans don’t work out the way we want. Hubby and I have had to come home early or take turns at the dinner table, but when both of us are being unselfish, things tend to work out.
  • This is just a phase. Don’t despair when things go wrong. Just remember that every step in life is just a phase. Things will change.

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