We begin this story in progress. Last week I started the tale of our cruise vacation, not exactly from Hell, maybe Purgatory. We were about to go ashore in Juneau, Alaska. We wanted the kids to see Alaska, but even if we hadn’t, we had no choice. Kids’ club was closed most of the day.
We’d signed up to pan for gold in the afternoon, but our morning was free, so we headed to town to check out the shops and get lunch. Shopping with the kids. I don’t know why I didn’t see this coming. I can’t even take them to FedEx/Kinko’s without hearing “I want! I want!.”
We walked up the main street, window shopping, until we saw a gift store with lots of authentic Alaskan stuff. We walked in and immediately, my daughter spied a native-art-adorned change purse. I love native Alaskan art. It’s all over my living room; but my daughter has roughly twenty-eight change purses. Worse, they’re always making her lose track of her money because she’ll put it all in a change purse and forget which one it’s in, and then she has to search each of her roughly twenty-eight change purses, strewn all about the house, for her money. So I said no to the change purse.
“Awww,” she whined, stomping her foot.
“Look around some more, Honey,” I said. “There’s lots more to see.”
She sulked away. I spied some native art necklaces and browsed. She came back to me with a giant wooden pencil with a Russian doll figure at the top. I could just see her stabbing her brother with it AND it was eleven dollars. For a pencil. I felt the same way about it as I do about a Cross pen. It’s really expensive but at the end of the day it’s still just a pen.
“No,” my husband had joined us. “It’s too dangerous for your brother.”
“Pleeease?” she whined.
“Honey, no,” I said. “There’s lots of other stores we can look at. This is the first one. Let’s see what we find at another store.”
“Honey, please look for something else. Come on, let’s go.” She stomped her foot and marched off to put the pencil back. She came back with a sulky face and wouldn’t take my hand as we walked. We were getting hungry. There were a few bars on the main strip, but no restaurants that allowed children. (If anyone in Juneau’s reading this, think about opening a restaurant on the main strip. You’ll make a killing.) A woman on the street overheard us talking and told us where to find restaurants.
We headed to the waterfront to eat. As we were walking into the fish and chips place, a woman passed by and accidentally grazed my almost-three-year-old son with her arm. She apologized profusely and I told her it was okay. My son, however, did not think it was okay as he started to cry. Hard. And scream. And kick me in the chest as I picked him up. He did not want to go into the restaurant. I told my husband and daughter to get a table and I took him outside. I sat down on a bench as he kept crying in my arms. “It’s okay, Honey, you’re okay,” I kept saying, stroking his hair.
“NOOOOOOOO!” he screamed. I held him until he pushed away from me. “YOU’RE BAD!” he screamed. “I DON’T WANT YOU!!”
“Okay, Honey, just relax,” I said.
I knew he was hungry, and he’s cranky when he’s hungry. Aren’t we all? So I tried a different tack. I carried him back into the restaurant, kicking and screaming, and grabbed some oyster crackers our saint of a waitress had brought for the kids. We went back to the bench. I held him as I sat down and offered him the crackers. “NOOOOOO!” he said. After a few rounds of that, he pushed away and sat two feet away from me on the bench, screaming and crying. I took a deep breath and waited until he was no longer screaming, just crying. I offered him one oyster cracker. He took it from my open hand and ate it. I was already there with two more. He took and ate them. After five minutes and several more oyster crackers, I asked him if he was hungry. I got a “yeah.”
“Let’s go inside,” I said.
“Okay,” he said and got up to take my hand. We got to our table and thankfully, the food was there. My son wanted to sit on my lap, and at that point, if he’d wanted me to stand on my head and balance him on my feet, I’d have done it, just to keep him calm. He didn’t want his chicken fingers. He wanted my coleslaw, which he ate with his hands. Again, as long as he was calm, I didn’t care. I gratefully gave him the whole bowl of slaw.
“Thank you,” my husband said.
“You’re welcome,” I said through a mouthful of halibut and chips. We didn’t have much time to eat before gold panning in the first place, and now it was twenty minutes later. We ate, rushed back to the dock and when we got there, the gold panning van bus was already loading. But we’d made it.
We drove up a mountain, the tour guide filled us in on some history, and we got to the stream where we would pan. He warned us that the stream was very cold, and hypothermia could happen really fast. As he started his demonstration of how to pan, my daughter had found a friend and they were throwing rocks in the water. We’d booked this excursion for the kids. We thought they’d really like panning for gold. My son followed his sister and was throwing rocks too. So much for that, I thought, but I was happy my daughter wasn’t bored and complaining. Everybody found flakes of gold and toward the end of the adventure, my son followed his sister across a stream, but he didn’t step on the rocks to cross like she did. He stepped full in like a fugitive trying to throw dogs off of his scent.
My husband ran over and got him, yelling at my daughter, “THIS IS AS MUCH YOUR FAULT AS IT IS HIS! HE’LL DO ANYTHING YOU DO!” It was not my daughter’s fault. She’s five. She can’t even think like that yet. I told my husband that later, but neglected to tell my daughter and I still feel horrible. This was not the first time he’d said something like that, and my daughter carries the weight of responsibility on her shoulders. Hopefully we can fix it in counseling. (See “Hereditary Insanity: It’s not just a blog title anymore.”)
Anyway I changed my son’s pants on the bus, but his shoes were soaked. By the time I’d put his wet clothes back in the diaper bag, he was asleep. We’d told my daughter we could shop more after our tour so I took my sleeping son back to the ship and had a brilliant idea. I got eleven dollars and gave it to my daughter.
“This is your money to spend. You can spend it on anything you want, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. You don’t get anything else.”
My husband took her back to town. I sat with my napping son and wrote that week’s post. They came back with the pencil. I was so happy that Juneau was over.
Juneau taught me that there is no such thing as “browsing” with children. I should have known from my experience at every other store we’ve ever been to. The second thing I learned was never to assume that the kids will like something, like panning for gold, for example. The third thing I learned was that handing my daughter money to show her its value and its limits really works. That’s more valuable than all the gold we found.