While Standing in Line at Happy Hollow….

Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, located in San Jose, is our new best friend.  We sprung for membership, site unseen, and were not disappointed.  Happy Hollow opened up back in ’56 as a response to the Disneyland craze.  They closed in 2008 for a $72 million dollar renovation and just reopened last March, almost a year ago.

With mid 60s to low 70s in the forecast, no church obligations and healthy kids (when do these three things EVER coincide for the Goughs?!??), we headed out.

Drew pretty much did this the entire time…..

But Alex had a hey day…

While waiting in line for the Danny the Dragon ride (see below)….

I started reading blogs on Google Reader to pass the time.  One of my favorites is Shauna’s crazy fun clothes and reflections on Poor Pitiful Pearl.  Today she wrote about parenting her older 4 year old daughter, McCoy.  Check out her post here.  She shares about the challenges of saying “no” to her daughter and holding to boundaries.  She reflected, “Her intensity I believe will serve her in many powerful ways in life.. if she can master her emotions… I also learn more about myself and mastering mine… in these times.. trusting in God as I continue along in consistency… praying it pays off. It would be so much easier to shrug it off and give her a lollipop…. praying for Gods wisdom to be firm and loving and not exasperate at the same time.” I could relate to everything she was sharing, even though Alex was actually having a really obedient, wonderful day.

Tonight, I decided to spring an idea on Alex that I’ve been pondering for some time—–a family movie night.  Many of my friends do this every Friday, maybe even making homemade pizza or popcorn too.  I love the idea of this becoming a Gough ritual.  Barbara Kingsolver describes this pizza ritual in her life-changing, inspiring book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:  A Year of Food Life. {sidenote:  if you haven’t read that book yet, GET TO YE LOCAL LIBRARY, AND CHECK IT OUT NOW!}

So, I set up the scenario for Alex…finish his dinner, clean up his toys, take a bath and then we’d watch a movie of his choosing and have popcorn and stay up a little late.  Who could resist??  Evidently our one and only could do just that—-RESIST.  When it got to the point of Matt saying, “If you turn around in your seat or get up from your chair one more time, you will lose movie night!” and then Alex immediately turned in the chair, well….we had to pull the plug and say no to the movie.  Crying ensued.  Big bottom lip.  Hyperventilating.  You get the picture.  And of course, teething Drew was crying at this point too (no doubt because we were soon to realize that he’d had a blow out larger than anything I’ve ever seen).  A cacophony of angelic, youthful sound.

And as Shauna reflected in her post today, the independence and need for control exhibited by so many toddlers is normal developmentally, but what parent finds it easy to navigate the pitfalls of it all??  It is no fun to be **that** parent….the one who has to say “no” to the treat, drag your kid out of the grocery store and leave empty handed, all the while wrangling a “wild crocodile” as Shauna called it in her post, to get to the car.

Yesterday, when Alex somehow convinced me to use one of those car shopping carts at Safeway, while trying to also keep Drew asleep, without Matt’s backup, we ran into a problem.  Alex decided that he needed MORE groceries in his car.  We were standing in the check out line, he got out of the hot pink car (that is attached to the front of the shopping cart) and proceeded to try and push it towards me, saying YELLING, “BUT, I DIDN’T GET EVERYTHING I WANTED!!!!”  Oh, my goodness.   Seriously.  Embarrassing.  He might as well have screamed, “I’m an entitled 3 1/2 year old!”  I found myself trying to say “no” and hold to the boundaries, but how in the heck do you do that when a huge shopping cart and attached plastic race car, not to mention a sleeping infant strapped into his carseat, stands between me and the kid.

PHEW!

I’m tired just reminiscing about it all.

We made it out of Safeway in one piece.  And he actually turned his behavior around much faster than he did even 6 months ago.  But, that was yesterday.  Then today hit.  It was a great day.  But, tonight, we had to go through two time outs.  And so it goes.  Parenting is truly a marathon.  Not that I have personal experience with marathons, but it’s really sinking in lately.  Parenting is all about a consistent, measured pace.  Some moments you hit your stride and are sailing along, running and actually breathing steadily and “comfortably”.  Then you hit a wall and need to muster up every ounce of willpower and strength to just stay on your feet moving forward.

And that’s where Grace comes in.  For me, it’s capital “G” grace because I can not even fathom doing this parenthood things without Grace, the Jesus kind.  And luckily, when I forget that, Alex reminds me.  Tonight, upon offering Alex apple juice to accompany his dinner, I realized that he’d already had his one serving of juice today.  He responded, “That’s ok, mommy…..everyone forgets.  Well not EVERYONE, but you do.  LOTS.”   Lovely.  Grace and sin in a nutshell.

May we all do that for each other…not to rub our forgetfulness or mistakes in each other’s faces, but to start with that Grace.  For ourselves and to those around us.  To START with “That’s ok….” and encourage one another in those parenting moments that we either WANT to forget or when we “forget” to hold firm.  It’s a marathon.  And with any marathon, you need cheerleaders & supporters.

(photo taken while waiting with Casey, Harper & Brady for our hubbies who were running in the Oakland Running Festival, March 2010)

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