Lately we have been practicing and preparing for our year-long Caribbean tour with two small children (3 and 5 years old), and our eighty pound German Shepherd dog. My husband Robb and I both work from home doing freelance, which gives us so many teaching opportunities for our little ones (fur included).
This weekend we took a short thirty minute trip to Zilker Park in Austin, Texas, where there is a wonderful trail and a popular hot spring that looks out onto the skyline of the city. We enjoyed some soft serve ice-cream and a slow meandering train ride through the park. I couldn’t help but notice that there are a few things, our small pack of trouble makers need to work on before setting off on our Caribbean voyage.
Stay close an adult and come when you are called (preferably the one you live with)
By far the winner on consistency with this task, is the dog Onyx. She stops dead in her tracks with the sound of her name being barked in her direction, which is much more that I can say for the other two. Although I do need to remember that she didn’t just happen upon this quality that I wish Blake and Bianca possessed, It was a long process that took six months of consistency. I am not quite sure how to translate this into a lesson for our children, but this is how we did it with the dog.
First we started out in the house or the back yard that was a confined and safe area, where escape was futile, and would just simply call her name. Sometimes she would come and sometimes she wouldn’t, but when she did I put on such an excited show the neighbors I’m sure thought the circus was in town. Just like children, dogs respond wonderfully to praise.
After Onyx knew for sure that coming when called and staying close to her pack is what we wanted, we added distractions. Now this is where I have trouble with the kids, being that it is socially unacceptable to tie them to a long rope, although my mom used a kid leash on me and I turned out okay. For Onyx the dog this technique worked like a charm. The trick was a very long lead, so when we called her and she decided not to come there were consequences no matter how far away she ventured.
Before we knew it the dog had learned that there was positive reinforcement when she listed and negative when she didn’t. Now if I could only train my children.. It may be a different story if the dog could bark back excuses and remind me about that one day I forgot to pick her up from the groomers on time.
Hump your own pack (carry your own crap, for our non-military readers)
This topic has been up for discussion in our house for quite sometime. As most mom’s out there know, we are to ones that end up as the pack mules for the whole family and as we are about to embark on our year long adventure I would like this trend to change.
Over the past two weeks we have all been taking a pack along on our outings, for the children I have them bring a couple of things that add up to about 4 or 5 pounds. After they are done packing we go through the bag and talk about each item and if they are sure they are going to need on our trip.
The idea is if you bring it, you carry it. It is working out pretty well, onyx even has a pack to carry her water, food and ball. We all do our part!
Don’t defecate in public (Blake and Onyx)
This really goes without explaining, but to my horror our clan hasn’t really gotten this one down yet and to my knowledge this behavior is frowned upon in almost all countries in Central America. Currently we are at the tail end (no pun intended) of our potty training adventure with our three-year old son Blake, which means we are joyous if we aren’t rinsing out his trousers in the nearest available water source..
There is a 199 total overall question limit per day per parent
Why are trees? What is a fish? As I hear the words my silly mind reaches for some kind of philosophical answer for my three-year old, but before I bust out in the explanation of Darwin I stop myself and notice my little scholar is eating his boogers.
Questions are the bane of my mommy existence. My thought is that as soon as they can write without help, they cannot down all of their off the wall questions in their journal and we can address them at the end of the day, I know this is a pipe dream. Just humor me.
Snacks are NOT the center of the universe
During a typical day with the Hamic’s, if you are under 4 feet tall it is customary to ask for a snack every 10-12 minutes and if Mommy is busy enough she will motion her hand towards where the snacks are kept and its on like Donkey Kong. So, when we are away from said snack basket, I am toying with a full-blown mutiny.
Robb and I have spoken a bunch about how to wean them off of their boredom eating, and what works when we go out is that if they want it, they pack and carry it and when it’s gone its gone, so don’t wolf it all down at once. Say a prayer for us..