I knew, going in, that Saturday could be a rough day.
I had been in Seattle on Thursday and Friday, leaving on a Southwest itinerary (through Chicago Midway) that had me landing in PHL at 12:50 a.m. Saturday morning. We originally planned to do family photos at 8 a.m. Saturday, though that got canceled due to the rain.
However, it was still going to be an early morning, as it almost always is. I got home at 1:30 a.m. and was probably asleep by 1:45 a.m. I was up a little before 7, then got a bit of snoozing in over the next half hour or so. There were kid pick-ups (from a sleepover) and drop offs (a flag football game) and then my husband left at 9:45 a.m. to make a 10:40 a.m. flight to South Carolina, where he went to the Texas A&M football game with his brother and mother.
This meant I was on my own with the 4 kids. After running the 9-year-old to and from a birthday party at a rock climbing gym, and feeding the crew lunch, it was 1:45 p.m. and I was tired. Middle-of-the-afternoon tired, jet-lagged tired, 5 hours of sleep tired, etc.
The kids didn’t want to do much. I suppose I could have let them. The problem was that their not doing much seemed to involve fighting over the computer and fighting each other.
This is crazy-making, and in years of dealing with small kids, and thinking about my time and energy, I have learned two things.
First, it can be pretty hard to recharge at home when people are constantly demanding stuff, as little kids often do. If I could have taken a leisurely nap, or read a book without interruption, that would have been one thing. But those weren’t going to be happening. Hoping they would be options would just leave me frazzled.
Second, we often draw energy from meaningful, enjoyable things. In other words, in the strange calculus of the energy equation, doing something can be more recharging than trying to do nothing.
So I announced that we would all have 30 minutes of downtime, and then we would go to a mystery location. There was grumbling, but I loaded everyone into the minivan, and drove them to the Elmwood Park Zoo.
We wound up having such a good time. Walking around in the crisp fall air woke me up as well as another cup of coffee would have. It’s a very small zoo, but a kid-friendly one, with a playground, farm animals for petting, a tunnel you can crawl through in the prairie dog exhibit, plus a zip-line that we didn’t go on, but plan to in the future. We went into the tropical birds exhibit and got to hold up cups of food to feed the birds, which had all the kids grinning as they fluttered by and landed on our outstretched arms. Even the child who was whining most about the zoo got into a project where you could collect stamps at different stations. We collected all the stamps and got our badges.
The zoo closed at 5, so we were home by 5:30, at which point the kids were good and tired out. I was mostly able to sit and read the newspaper, get them dinner, and then get them to bed. Success. (And my husband was back by 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning, too.)
What do you do when your energy is flagging, but you need to get through the day?
Photo: Clowning around at the zoo