I like to take evening walks. It’s something I’ve enjoyed doing for quite a few years, and when my daughter was younger it was easy to strap her in a jogging stroller and go on my merry way. It used to make me feel something like this …
But, now that my daughter is 11, she doesn’t quite fit the stroller anymore. Though I still strive to get her out there with me, realistically, my walks can sometimes appear a little less enthusiastic than they once were.
In true pre-teen fashion, my daughter can come up with lots of little anecdotes and great kid excuses for not getting outside, and sometimes her excuses are more amusing that others. Following are some of my favorite exchanges between us on this very subject …
Excuse #1: My feet hurt because I walked a lot at school today.
Response: Weird, because you just got off the trampoline and chased the cat around the house for 20 minutes, then you walked into the kitchen to get a bowl of ice cream, and then up the stairs and back down again to get your Chromebook—all without mentioning “hurting feet.” I think you can take a walk outside with your mom.
Excuse #2: It’s too hot.
Response: If it’s too hot to go for a walk with me, then I guess it’s too hot to go get ice cream, right? What, you want ice cream? I’m cool with not walking tonight, we’ll just ride our bikes there instead.
Excuse #3: It’s too cold.
Response: You know, I’m not a fan of the cold either, but yesterday you said it was too hot and today it’s too cold. Remember that cool new fleece pullover you begged me to buy you the other day? How about you put that on and walk with me—or I could donate it to Goodwill if you’re not using it?
Excuse #4: Hiking is dumb, it should be banned. (This was a comment she made while hiking in Hawaii, of all places.)
Response: What? Hiking in one of the most beautiful places on earth is dumb? Whose child are you anyway? It’s not dumb. YouTube videos about Minecraft are dumb. How about we ban YouTube and Minecraft?
Excuse #5: I’m too tired to take a walk with you.
Response: I get that. I’m tired a lot too. Right now I’m too tired to fold your laundry, or make you dinner, or pack your lunch for tomorrow, or sign your homework sheet, or feed your cats. Do you want to do all that for me while I go for a walk without you?
Excuse #6: I’ll go on a walk with you tomorrow, OK?
Response: Nope, I’m not falling for that one. That’s just your way of saying no without actually saying no. I’m a mom, and we’re experts at the bait and switch technique. (She usually looks confused when I say this.)
Excuse #7: But I just walked with you yesterday!
Response: You did, and it was awesome! We should do this every day—right before computer time. No? Well, OK, you’re right, we don’t need computer time, we could always just do math facts instead of taking a walk. Cool?
Excuse #8: Can’t I just have a day off from walking?
Response: Sure, no problem. But I think the Chromebook needs a day off too. I’ll just put it in my locked desk drawer until next week maybe. Is that OK with you? It seems pretty tired to me.
Excuse #9: I can’t take a walk because the sun is hurting my eyes.
Response: What? That bright ball of light in the sky is hurting your eyes? Here’s a pair of sunglasses, you look really cool in sunglasses. Have I ever told you how awesome you look wearing sunglasses? Let’s talk about that while we’re walking.
Excuse #10: It looks like it might rain.
Response: Really? You just said the sun was hurting your eyes. And it might rain three years from now too, should we stop doing everything and just watch the Weather Channel just in case? What? That’s boring? How about we read about weather patterns and how they work? No? Well, then I guess we should take our chances and just walk in the rain that “might” come—or it might not, who knows?
If you find yourself in a similar situation, my advice to you is this—always stay one step ahead of a reluctant child (no pun intended) when it comes to coaxing them outside (and engaging in a battle of the wits). As Atticus Finch once said, “You might not always win, but sometimes you do.” In this case the victory is usually a win-win (even though she might not always see it that way at the time.)