Wednesday, April 20, 2011 • 2:40 PM Comments (2)

Movie Plus Dinner

posted by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Before the little gal began vomiting, the week—with two kids off the whole week, one off for a couple of days and the little one on her three mornings at school schedule—included plans. A bunch of which were dashed by her illness and attendant (wholly understandable) clinginess.

The big guys and I were hoping for a Berkshires overnight. The aspiring chef (see photos of his latest dinner creation) has a particular destination in mind: Rubiner’s (Cheesemongers and Grocers). We figured a little relaxing, a little wandering, and mostly, a little time hanging big kids plus mama.

There are in this world people who are really good at rolling with changes in plans, people who are not so wedded to whether what happens next is what was on the schedule. And there are people like my tween and me: we are not so pleased to roll. We kind of like knowing—and following through. That whole notion of Plan B, it’s taken me quite a while to embrace, even half-heartedly. One of the great challenges—for me—about being a parent is being required to act like Plan B is not necessarily a big, have-a-meltdown-cling-to-disappointment deal. I have to model the old brush-yourself-off-and-get-back-on-the-bicycle motion, the squeeze-lemons-into-lemonade, and such like that.

True confession: I was really looking forward to our getaway.

However much I wanted to go, that wan, doe-eyed, marsupial of a three-year-old who has spent much of the last stretch clinging to me, I could not have left her. Her obvious neediness kicked in my hover-y mama thing and helped me let go of the plan, even though I haven’t entirely let go of the disappointment.

I understood that what I had to do was figure out a Plan B—and get the disappointed tween to sign on. Tuesday morning when this was happening, the teen needed no persuading of anything; he was sleeping. Sleeping, it turns out, is high on the to-do list for a fifteen year-old on vacation (or at least mine).

There seemed a window in the later afternoon and evening when my absence would be picked up by the papa’s presence and the three of us could do something fun. Like? I scanned movie listings and found one that I thought we’d all like (the Conspirator, and score, it was at the Pleasant Street Cinema, our walk-to movie house). I figured dinner, maybe a little treat and golden—Plan B.

No way I could write a long enough essay for you to feel the deep dark cranky funk of I don’t like Plan B (add grating whining tween tone here and insert it’s all her fault, it’s not fair, I hate everyone, plus whatever complaints about life you might have for good measure) that lasted all morning while little girl clung and dozed and clung and fussed. Put a phone call in the middle of this from a friend who’d been thrown for a more real loop than a day in the Berkshires thwarted to put in perspective that while this felt big to him, it really was perfectly overcome-able. We really could like our Plan B just fine.

For me, in those moments (and I’ve had plenty with this guy in particular), always remind me that the work I’m doing to be a parent—or his parent—is about helping him develop resilience so that he can do more rolling with it, since life hands us Plan B more frequently than we care to admit to ourselves. In this age of what some might call over-parenting (I might agree), are we as a generation of besotted adults making it so our kids have developed not nearly enough of that brush yourself off and continue ability.

Finally, I laid it out completely plainly: that we’d been here before, that what I needed to help him with was finding a way to rally because in reality as miserable as he was making me the most miserable person at his big funk was him. And I knew he didn’t have to be so miserable. He was able to say he didn’t want to act the way he was acting. Ah-ha! That little chat plus teenager waking up and embracing Plan B helped. Sentences were uttered by the tween later on like, “It’s too bad we can’t go now but we’ll go some other time and a movie and dinner sounds like fun.”

Yeah, my jaw was dropping to the floor, too.

So, we rolled with it and our no-cation-turned-mini-stay-cation: a (really compelling, disturbing, beautifully acted and directed) movie and dinner (sushi) was fun. My tween and teen are charming companions. When we saw a family with two kids the ages mine were ten years ago, I was awfully struck by how fast this whole childhood thing goes (cliché, yes, but if you’d been there by having had that day, I think you’d have felt a little misty, too).

Comments (2)
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I love this reflection on resilience. It's something I talk with parents about all the time. And to know you wish you weren't acting the way you were acting....hell, I could use that help, so your little dude is well on his way to being an awesome big dude. Thanks for this.

Posted by Rachel Simmons on 4.21.11 at 6:44

First of all I really like how you acknowledges his frustration as legitimate, because feelings are legitimate even if they come from a place of priviledge. I am so not a Plan B kind of person. I'm also a super whinny person. I need to grow up big time.

Posted by Damaris Palmer on 4.21.11 at 19:28
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