Saturday, March 27, 2010

Breaking Spring


Well, it's spring break around here. Not exactly my most favourite time of the year.

I would love it if spring break would be a special bonding time with my children. When we could have madcap adventures, heart-to-heart chats and relaxing days spent in our pyjamas.

Spring break is all about emotion management (Jackson's) and sanity management (mine).

Spring is the time the J Boy's ennui tends to increase. He is less enchanted with school, the extra sunshine makes him a little crazy, he stays up late and we all anxiously await the onset of his seasonal allergies in May which is often the beginning of a downward spiral. Allergy season is really special as he is congested, not sleeping well and cranky and to add to the fun on the worst days we have to try to get him to take three medicines daily. When he's not feeling well, Jackson will refuse to do things just on general principle. Especially take medicine. (Though I must admit last year's allergy season was mild and he was generally a good sport about taking the medicine).

So spring break, without the ability to drop Jackson off at school for six hours, is the starting pistol of my least favourite time of the year. This year our school district decided it would be a lovely idea to combine the one week spring break week with Easter so we have an extra two days to navigate.

Most years we plan a short get away to break things up. A few nights in a hotel. Last year we went to Great Wolf Resort. This year, we aren't going away. Our Disneyland trip last September was notionally (i.e. financially) our spring break trip.

Jackson started off March pretty poorly. He rallied last week, and has been improved since then, but we're still struggling at times. We thought with enough distractions, we might just make it to April 6th, the back-to-school day without any visible scars.

So we have the kids going to day camps on 2 of the days. We'll hopefully see the Wimpy Kid Diary movie and make a trip to the Vancouver Aquarium to make use of our yearly pass. We have tickets to a musical put on by Sydney's dance company (she's not in it) and my father-in-law's 80th birthday party. Add to that Easter events with family, church and the bunny, we were hoping that with a little luck on the weather we could navigate the emotional minefield of our 8 year old.

To leave nothing to chance, we decided to buy each of the kids a new DS game. To fill the hours and give them an unexpected treat. Both kids are spending a lot of time on Club Penguin, so we thought we'd buy them each one of the two Club Penguin games. Then we realized that one of the games is only sole on pre-sale and is not available until June. So we thought we would buy Jackson one of the brand new Pokemon games. I conferred with a couple of Jackson's friends and got an excellent recommendation on Pokemon Silver.

Now I would love to surprise them with this gift and have them jump up and down with excitement telling us how much they loved us and how we are the BEST PARENTS EVER. But Jackson has only recently begun to forgive Santa for bringing Sydney the Lego Batman DS game at Christmas and not him. I did not want to start spring break in angry, jealous or ungrateful mode.

So on Thursday morning, the last sweet, sweet day I could drop them off at school, I ran the scenario by the game-obsessed boy. I told him we were going to get Sydney the Penguin game and thought he might like something different (since they share their games anyway). I told him I had asked A and N (his friends) about what games to buy and had a recommendation of Pokemon Silver. I asked if A and N knew anything about games and were they any kind of good authority on the subject. Jackson assured me they were an excellent source of information.

Jackson did advise me that his first choice in games would probably be the new Super Mario Brothers game, but it is so popular it would be sold out everywhere, so the Pokemon would be his second choice. And, because he wants to leave nothing to chance, he chose Mario Kart for his third choice. He bought in completely to this scheme. And I pointedly asked him:

"So you're not going to freak out when Sydney gets the Penguin game?"

He assured me that he wouldn't.

On my lunch hour I had a cadre of Future Shop employees searching the warehouse, backrooms and new shipments for one of the newly-arrived six copies of Super Mario Brothers that were somewhere in the store. They left no stone unturned before telling me that they could not locate the coveted game. They had only a few Pokemon Silvers left, so I headed to the cash to pay for one of those.

Then, I saw a excited gamer-employee running toward me waving a game in his hand: someone had known the location of the secret stash. I was so going to be a hero when I arrived home with this treasure!!

To their credit, the kids were very happy with their DS games. They happily played and shared games and I thought PHEW. I patted myself on the back excessively for managing what had the potential to be a volatile situation. Yes, I believed I have finally earned my novice parenting badge!

I'm sure you could guess by now that this is not the end of the story.

We had a great start to spring break. The kids spent the day at circus camp and loved it. Husband took the day off work and we had 6.5 hours of NOT hearing the Club Penguin igloo music in the background and doing what we pleased. It was a most excellent start to the breaking of spring.

On Friday, about 45 minutes before we had to leave the house to go to the Alice in Wonderland musical, Jackson notices a Club Penguin code on Sydney's Club Penguin game. For those of you that don't know about the evil devices marketing genius of Club Penguin, every time you buy Club Penguin merchandise, you get a code and you unlock things for the on line community. The Puffles the kids received earlier in the week entitled them to choose two items from a book of treasures.

Jackson somehow divined that this was no ordinary code; it is one which allows you to become a member of the EPF online (the Elite Penguin Force). Some evil Penguin took over the J Boy's brain and he said to his sister, in outright untruthfulness (though I have no doubt he convinced himself was true):

"Can I use the code? You can use it after me."

The way Club Penguin works, he and I both knew, is that the code only works once. If he uses it first, Sydney won't be able to. Of all our issues with Jackson, my biggest red button issue, is when his shenanigans affect his sister. Here he was willfully about to deprive his sister of her EPF status.

Fortunately, I was on the computer at the time and was actually half paying attention to what what they were saying to each other (I generally try to tune them out). So when Jackson charmingly requested a turn on the computer "just for a few minutes" my suspiscion was raised and I replayed the conversation I had just heard.

Jackson's attempt to hide the object of his computer use and the resulting convulsion, alerted me that he was trying to pull something.

I won't bore you with the details, but the J Boy's brain shorted out and he lost all rational connection to the world. He could not be convinced that Sydney should be able to use her own code first and if it could be used a second time, he could use it. He saw no reason why he should not be able to use the code first because he was "99.9% sure" that it could be used twice. However, he was not willing to take the 0.1% chance risk that he was wrong. To buttress his argument that he should use the code first he said "but you don't understand, I would get to be an EPF!! Do you even know what that means??"

I eventually got him to relinquish the code from his sweaty hands promising for right then, that no one would use the code. Somehow, with the threats of cessation of his Club Penguin privileges for life (or as I put it "if Club Penguin makes you crazy, you won't be able to play on it"), he pulled himself together to go see and enjoy the Alice in Wonderland production.

Remember those delightful 6.5 hours during circus camp? You know, hours spent doing things other than dispensing snacks, listening to squabbles, enduring whining and pretending to be a calm, patient and rational parent with complete control of the situation and my senses? All that good is evaporated in 30 minutes of turf war over a Penguin code.

Day 1 of spring break is over and I am almost broken mysel

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