Monday, January 25, 2010

Christmas of Miracles and Chipmunks

On Christmas, we were in LA. Since I was left in charge of the kids for the day, I decided to only do a partial traditional Jewish Christmas (movies – no Chinese food). Instead I took the kids on a hike up Mt. Hollywood. I promised them terrific views of the Hollywood sign, and I delivered. Of course after the third sighting, after traversing a series of steep switchbacks, the thrill had worn off. My daughter threw a temper tantrum when she learned we were not actually going to the Hollywood sign.

Children are sprinters, not marathoners. Wearing them out through long endurance-testing activities won’t work. They go about eight steps before the whining starts and passive resistance will follow shortly thereafter. But for short bursts children are unbeatable. If my son and I play a round of basketball, we will both need breaks. The asymmetry is in recovery time. His is about five minutes. I need about a day (or maybe a week).

Past hikes have involved targets, from stream, to rock, to picnic area (and they still start complaining every 8 steps.)

So how did I get them to actually go on a modestly challenging several mile hike?

Incentives – I promised to take them to a movie, any movie their choice: but, only if they didn’t whine. I had to remind them of this condition every 8 steps for the entire hike.

But it worked. They powered up the mountain. They didn’t whine, although they substituted for this by arguing about who should walk in front (thus setting the pace.) My daughter seemed to be faster, which offended my son’s dignity. So he would speed up and then my daughter would screech that she needed to be in front. I tried to bring a “no fighting or no movie” sanction into play, but they rejected my efforts to amend our initial “no whining on the hike or no movie” agreement. (I can’t believe my father is an attorney and none of this rubbed off on me – it must skip a generation.)

But we did make it to the top. I tried to get them to do a “Rocky” with their arms up over their heads, but gravity was too strong. They just stood their, looking beat. The process of whining, warning and arguing began anew as we headed down.

Christmas Miracle
The hike begins at the Griffith Park Observatory, so when it came into view on the way down I pointed it out to encourage my little hikers that we were almost done.

“But daddy, it doesn’t look close at all. It looks far away!” my daughter almost whined.

“No, it only looks far away because we are high up,” I responded.

“You’re right daddy. I think you’re right.”

I’m right! My daughter said I’m right! I should savor this now, since I may never hear her say those words again. It’s a Christmas Miracle!

The Squeaquel
The children kept their end of the bargain, so I kept mine. We got a quick bite and went to the movie theater. The kids picked Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.

The kids loved it and for a movie about talking chipmunks, featuring Wendy Malik, it wasn’t bad. It had some clever moments. But here’s the thing…

Behind us was a trio of adults, discussing the movie. And they weren’t making ironic comments. They were actually talking about, asking each other questions like:
What’s going to happen>

Do you think they are going to get together?

Why did he do that?
It is a movie about talking chipmunks!

There are not a lot of nuances or plot twists. If following this movie requires a discussion seminar, maybe you should acquire some starter media, like Thomas Tank Engine or Bewitched to develop your cognitive abilities. Also, try not to reproduce – because if The Chipmunks are too rich a narrative structure you probably won’t be much use helping your kids understand Goodnight Moon or Peter Rabbit.

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