During spring, summer, and fall, our days are filled to the max with activity, activity, activity. We play in the yard, take long walks and hikes, and swim in the stock tank even though there’s a perfectly good pool stored in the garage. It’s easy to fall asleep at night because we are exhausted from all the work and play. Now, sadly, is the winter of our discontent, and we must get creative to wear out our toddler before that energy gets wound up in a tantrum that’s used against us.
Even if it’s cold we’ll go on walks and play in the yard. I’ve taken him upstairs into the open construction zone of our house and we’ve raced, skipped, waddled, and hopped from one end of the house to the other. Simon Says has a 90% exercise theme and 10% pick-up-your-toys theme. I’ll say, “Let’s go upstairs!” excitedly for no other reason than to have him ride his bike in circles through the unfinished rooms while I look through old boxes of books, contemplating reading one, then becoming exhausted just thinking about sitting down to read.
This week the wood pile was low, actually never started because it hasn’t been that cold this winter, so my husband has been bringing in wood from the big pile farther from the house when we need it, but since we had a couple of days that we could go outside for more than ten minutes at a time, and because soon, like today, we’d have a day I wouldn’t want to go outside at all, I thought it would be a good idea to include my son in this chore.
The larger wood pile is about 100 yards away from our house. I’d psyched him up all day about it.
“We’re going to have soooo much fun later!” I kept repeating. “We’re going to go outside and make a huge pile of wood, like building a wood castle.”
“Are we going to set it on fire?” he asked excitedly.
“Wait, what?! NO!” This is concerning. He’s obsessed with fire.
“Oh,” he says sadly, and walks away.
I continue on with my antics until naptime for the baby, then we hurriedly put on our hats, gloves, and coats, and run outside.
“Let’s go have fun!” I feigned excitement and literally skipped to the wood pile, but he didn’t even make it halfway before he was distracted by the cat. I made two trips with a handful of wood, singing “Whistle While You Work” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
While walking back during the first trip I said, “I guess I get to start the pile all by myself,” and that pulled him back to the task for a minute as he walked back to the house with me just to direct me on how to stack them. Then, as I was walking back with him to the larger pile, getting him to sing along with me, he became distracted by his outdoor playset and pretended to be a pirate for a few minutes. He did manage to take a break when I walked back with another load to instruct me on how to stack it and to inform me that I messed it up.
I pulled out the big guns at this point: “Let’s race!”
We use this when we are late and need him to get in the car instead of circling it for five minutes, or when we want him to finish his food in less than his two hour average, or when he needs to go pee pee before bedtime. Obviously, that’s Daddy’s race, not mine.
My son did race me to the wood pile, but he immediately turned to the muddy mess next to it, and proceeded to ruin his shoes. I grabbed another pile and made it back before he even noticed. I was reaching my limit. No more pretend excitement. This kid needed to burn some serious energy and time was wasting.
“Get over here and get a piece of wood or I’ll give away your Legos!”
Bam! That kid moved fast, found the smallest stick he could find, made it halfway back, saw the cat again slowly emerging from under the car, not realizing the monster toddler was so close, and my son dropped the stick and ran off.
That’s all I got out of him. My husband asked me why I didn’t have him use his new electric kiddy tractor that his grandma gave him for Christmas, but that defeated the purpose of wearing him out.
He played a little longer. I did convince him to sprint from one end of the yard to the other, but the cat got his revenge and dive-bombed between his feet and tripped him, so we went inside so he could shed some tears in his chocolate milk. For the rest of the night I convinced him to play Simon Says, to do an actual cardio video with me, to march through the house while we picked up toys, and the result was disappointing.
I fell asleep at 8 P.M., and he terrorized his father until 10 P.M. This strategy is obviously not working for us.