How to Make Quinn Happy. Or Sad. Or Angry? Honestly, It’s Hard To Tell.

After making Wednesday so traumatic for Quinn, what with the mini golf and all, I decided that we would do something on Thursday that would make him happy. That took the form of taking him to an open gym where he jumped on a trampoline pretty much for a solid hour.

Quinn jumping on a trampoline.

From now on I will refer to this as Quinn’s Happy Place.

We followed that up with a trip to the pet store for gerbil supplies and to visit the adoptable cats there. In a nice change of pace, Sam was the one who ended up outraged at me, this time for not adopting the cat he fell in love with.

We also went to the grocery store after that, where we ran into a friend. I have run into different friends with their kids every time I’ve been to the grocery store this year. Every time, that friend’s kids are delightful and mine are whirling dervishes. Grocery stores are the worst.

The next day I took the munchkins to drive Go Karts. I knew that Jack and Sam would like the Go Karts and I was pretty sure that Quinn would love them too. Unfortunately, Quinn has become this kid that seems determined to hate everything. Even if he is laughing joyously, he will go out of his way to tell me that he’s miserable.

I am honestly not sure if it is pathological or him just being 8 years old.

Aside: I’d really like to hear about it if some of you have kids who are as all over the place as he is. Like, I’d really like to believe that I’m a good mom and that I’m doing good things for him by taking him places, but it’s getting harder and harder to believe that what with him telling me how horrible I am whenever I make him leave the house. He would be happy all the time if I just let him stay at home and play video games, but it seems wrong to let him do that.

Aside to the aside: I know that taking him out into the world is the right thing to do. I just have to figure out how to make it easier for him. That’s the part I’m having trouble with. That and how to handle my emotions when he shouts at me for trying to give him fun experiences.

Anywho, back to more fun things. Like Go Karts. Before Friday, I had never driven a Go Kart. Have you? Because they are the most fun thing in the world. I originally paid for three laps and after we did those, I immediately went back and bought each of us three more. I really wanted to surrender my credit card and let my kids race for the rest of the afternoon, but that wasn’t financially feasible.

Suffice it to say, all three of my kids had a really wonderful time. Even Quinn had a hard time scowling when I asked him to smile for a photo after our drives.

Quinn standing next to a Go Kart.

I do believe that is something close to a smile…or at least not exactly a frown.

Quinn was too little to drive in his own kart, so he was a passenger in mine. I took a couple of photos as we started out.

Grumpy Quinn in a Go Kart.

He was working really hard to be miserable.

I couldn’t take a photo of him when he was smiling and laughing and telling me, “Faster! Faster!” because I imagine that “Don’t take photos and drive” applies to go karts as well as regular cars. I tried to Photoshop the above photo to reflect happy Quinn, but it turned out pretty gruesome, so just imagine him with eyes wide, a huge smile, and his golden hair blowing backwards in the wind. It was a sight to behold.

Likewise, I couldn’t get any photos of Sam, both because of that photography whilst driving thing and also because he was so speedy that I didn’t see him after he started out.

Sam in a go kart.

Here is his before shot though. I won’t show you his after shot in which he held his victory stance and shouted about how he’d smoked all of us.

I do have one photo of our party actually driving a go kart and it is because that member of our party is what you could call an extremely cautious motorist. I fully support this.

Jack finished each set of three laps about 3/4 of a lap behind the rest of us, which worked out perfectly for my photography purposes.

Jack driving a go kart.

Isn’t he just the cutest little moderate speed demon you’ve ever seen?

We picked the perfect time to go because, as you can see in that photo, there was almost no one on the track. We had such a blast. I’d say that all four of us had a great time and would happily go back again. Maybe next time we’ll take Alex, who, after hearing about our outing, sadly told us that he’d never driven a go kart. I felt kinda bad for him.

No one should live without go karting. No one.

We gave Quinn an at-home day on Saturday, which made him very happy. Sunday will make Quinn miserable again as we are going to force him to play some baseball.*

I predict screaming. It’s going to be a whole thing. Sigh.

* By “play some baseball,” I mean “exist on a baseball field.” I plan to play with Quinn in the outfield while his brothers and Alex play baseball. Every week, we’ll move in a little bit. By the end of the summer, I hope to have him holding a bat. My fingers are crossed that he won’t hit me with it.


In terms of other things that make Quinn both intensely angry and extremely happy, we went on a nature hike last week, which got me thinking about Team Stimey’s summer adventures. I wrote about it over at White Knuckle Parenting.

34 thoughts on “How to Make Quinn Happy. Or Sad. Or Angry? Honestly, It’s Hard To Tell.

  1. 8years old was tough with my oldest daughter, she made me devoutly wish to no longer be a mother. Thankfully we had good therapists who helped us through.

    8 years old with my youngest has so far been delightful, but she is about 2 years behind her peers with social/emotional stuff so I expect 10yo may be a little challenging.

    As for grocery stores :: shudder :: we hit the jackpot yesterday with the fire alarm going off and having to leave the store. Never.Again. I will attempt all grocery shopping solo from now on, even if that means sneaking out at midnight.

    • I’m with you on the sneaking out at midnight thing. I feel like I have vague memories of Sam being problematic around 8, so hopefully Quinn will follow that trajectory as well. Jack skipped that horrorshow bit entirely. Fingers crossed for your youngest that she does too!

  2. Totally, 100% agree with you. NOBODY should live without going go karting!!! :D

    Oh. As for your “asides”….you are AWESOME and if it wasn’t for the fact that you have 3 boys and I only have 2…I would’ve thought you were writing about our life. ;P

  3. How dare you take them go karting! The nerve! Wanting to have fun? Pfffft. We’ve hit a stage like that here at 12. Everything is just “OK.” It’s like there is some kid manual where they’re not allowed to admit they’re actually having fun with family.

  4. We went go-karting for the first time on Thursday. All five of us. I had been as a kid but the other four were first timers. My middle guy was my passenger, squealing with delight. My oldest went alone and my youngest went with my husband. Stone faced the whole time. Their “I’m having fun” face is the same as their “I’m going to the dentist” face. They say they have fun but I can’t tell.
    We’ve been out of school for 10 days now and we’ve gone mini golfing twice, go-karting, amusement parking, movies, swimming, shopping, biking. And last night my oldest asked when we were going to do something fun. So…yeah…I may slightly understand your asides.

  5. My five-year-old insisted that he was going to hate swim lessons this summer. Once he was in the water he was happy and laughing until he saw me watching him. Then he quickly schooled his expression into a pouty frown. The determination to be proved right instead of pleasantly surprised starts early.

    • That was totally what Quinn did. He was laughing with glee until he saw me looking at him and then he worked so hard to scowl. Aaaarrrgh!

  6. You are my motivation to keep going out in public with my crazy boys. I fail almost every time, but I keep trying. Seriously, anytime we are about to go to anything socially difficult, I think Stimey would do it, and then blog about the absurdity. I am not alone lol!

  7. Maybe call his bluff? Plan a fun activity, talk it up, get his brothers on board. Then allow him to stay home with a babysitter who is in on the plan. Pack power cords, controllers, whatever is required for him to have his video fun, place said items in a bag in the trunk of the car (yes, with him watching) and go have fun. Guessing it might not be too long before he reconsiders? But then you know your kid best. Maybe it wouldn’t work. No telling. My experience with an 8 year old is several decades past. Sigh And honestly? I was working lots of hours and didn’t provide her with the fun kinds of things you are talking about. Must ask her if she ever went go-karting. I never did.

  8. I am having similar problems with my guy, leading me to wonder the same kinds of questions. It isn’t so much the leaving the house as any idea I have whatsoever. He doesn’t want to do anything my way. He storms off, stomping his feet (sorry neighbors) and yelling about he will never come out of his room or never eat anything again or that I don’t love him or other drastic and extreme inanities.

    I’ll take any advice you have…

  9. 11 yr old here. I think it’s mostly due to his phone phobia. (Seriously, Autism? The phone? That has to be the thing that sets him off every time?)

    He likes the water so I think we will be going to a lot of pools, water parks and lakes this summer. And people tend to not to use their phone around the water.

    • I also really don’t like phones, but mostly I don’t like talking to people on them. Your water plan seems like a good solution.

  10. Hi, So, as usual, you sound like a great Mom. You are very creative in finding new things to do as a family. However, at this rate, you might run out of activities before the end of summer. If so, Yikes!
    With that said, here are a few thoughts:
    – IF I were a Mom, the really cool activities that you plan would be *slightly* less frequent. Not a critique – just an observation.
    – Possibly let each child choose one activity or outing per week. If the child chooses the activity, then by definition it cannot be boring. :)
    – Maybe invite one friend [not one friend per child] to accompany your kids. If they get bored, at least they can be bored as a team. Oh, wait, that might not work so well…
    – Maybe invite your children’s friends to your pool – and then watch them to make sure no one drowns!
    – I recall that, WAY back in the 60’s / 70’s, we had a bit more unstructured time than children have today. [Yes, as you know, I am a bit older.] So, we would ramble around, maybe go to half-day camp for a couple of weeks, ride bikes, go to the pool, etc. We could spend a full day at the pool, happily. And, we read books. [Now I sound like Laura Ingalls Wilder.]
    – Also, I didn’t even KNOW about go-karts. I just checked that site, and it looks like a lot of fun.
    OK, happy summer!

    • We did a lot of stuff last week because Jack started full-day camp today and I hate to do all the fun stuff when he’s not around. Like, go karting without Jack? I don’t know if I could continue to exist while carrying THAT particular guilt around. :)

      My kids have spent the past three days in the most unstructured of unstructured time. They are delighted. :)

      • Hi,
        So, apparently *I* have too much unstructured time, as I already noticed your reply. :)
        Anyway, I think you’re doing great with the activities. Also, a balance of fun activities and unstructured time, sounds pretty good.
        Per earlier comment, we mostly spent summer at the pool.
        Do kids still play ‘kick the can’, ‘statues’, and ‘red rover’? Also, badminton [sp]. Because those were fun.
        And finally, as I am not a Mom, my comments are just food for thought.

        • We played red rover at Sam’s birthday party last year. I think that a lot of the kids had never even heard of it. I think it’s frowned upon what with how violent it gets. But we had fun. :)

  11. I have a 9 year old that is convinced that I am ruining her life because either a) I’m ruining her life by not planning fun things for them to do all day every day like all her friends moms that don’t have to work ( I’m a single mom that works full time) or b) I am ruining her life by making her leave the house. ever. its a no win situation and please please please let it be a phase, because holy hell she might not make it to 18 what with all this life ruining I am doing.

    • It is such a shame that we mothers are working so hard to make our kids miserable, isn’t it? There is no winning. Ever.

  12. I find that Beezus (almost 8) seems to take delight in pointing out all the things I do wrong, or all the things I say are going to happen and then don’t. For example, if I make an off-hand comment about how it might rain later and then it doesn’t rain, she will point it out a million times with a nasty little smirk on her face. It’s upsetting and embarassing.

    I wonder if there is something going on with the 8s that they know they are getting older, and they know that they need to separate from us in order to develop themselves, but they don’t know how to separate in a loving way.

    I will say that both of my girls are SO much better behaved with structure (which reminds me I need to stop reading blogs and re-do the summer routine lists) and when I talk through every action of every future event that’s happening. They seem to set up unrealistic expectations for our special outings – like going to a play is also going to include all the snacks they want at the snack bar, for example. Then, when I cannot attain their unrealistic expectations it is ALWAYS my fault.

    Wow, this feels good to get this off my chest.

    I also try to remember two things: they MUST treat me with the same respect I treat them AND I am their safe space -so they are generally trying out these (inappropriate) behaviors with ME !!!

    • Quinn totally does that too—points out what I do wrong. Like, I’ll be buying a soda and he will loudly announce to everyone in the store, “YOU FAILED AT YOUR RESOLUTION, MOM, DIDN’T YOU? YOU FAILED, RIGHT?” It’s awesome.

  13. Well, I have a 9 yo. (fairly socially immature) who finds the negative in just about everything. Example, we went to the beach today because he was dying to go, but then acted miserable when boogie boarding didn’t go as successfully as he had planned. Thankfully he was soon distracted by shell hunting with my 6 yo. who I have to drag everywhere. Side bar- today was the first successful beach trip with him (6 yo.). Normally he’s some combination of: too cold, the waves are too loud, the sea gulls might attack, there’s sand somewhere on him that is offensive, etc. Bottom line I’m not convinced we can ever win until they are fully grown, and then only if we’re lucky.

  14. Go-Karting is really a great activity! Perfect for kids and adults… Since we don’t have kids yet, I actually love going Go-Karting with hubby! He always beat me every time but I’m opt for the next challenge… This time I’m gonna win!!! ;)

  15. Gotta say: Quinn definitely isn’t the only one who isn’t into fun activities. Rachel *despises* leaving the house–especially if it involves (ugh!) spending time with family members. (We get on her nerves, and she doesn’t hesitate to tell us. It’s a little discouraging.) She’s okay with going to camp as long as the activities reinforce her special interests and Talia isn’t coming along, but otherwise she’d really prefer to play Minecraft all day in her room with the door shut. That I don’t let her do so is a constant source of resentment for her.

    We get out of the house every day unless the weather is atrocious, whether it’s camp, the library, the pool, a park, or a more involved trip such as camping or hiking, because *everyone* is happier and more sane that way in the long run, including Rachel. The trick is getting her to that point, and as you say, that can be frustrating and hard.

    I have no easy solution, either. We have ground rules that she understands and follows: She’s allowed to feel what she feels. She is welcome to express those feelings politely and respectfully, and I promise her that she will be heard, with patience and equal respect. (For example, today’s statement: “I don’t want to go to the grocery store because I hate grocery stores. They are portals to the demon world to me. And they are boring because who cares about food?” We then had a spirited conversation about the demonic aspects of grocery stores on the way to Trader Joe’s. That’s perfectly acceptable in our house. But she can’t whine or throw a fit about going.)

    Part of the hurdle is getting her to understand that it isn’t *all* about her–not every outing is designed to thoroughly entertain her. Sometimes errands are tedious. Sometimes outings are entertaining only for other family members, but they deserve time to do what they enjoy, too. I hate to sound cold, but that’s life, and she will have to build up a tolerance for occasional tedium–and a little empathy, and the ability to seek out silver linings–if she’s going to get through it.

    We may work out a compromise to make the trip easier for her, such as allowing her to take her Nintendo DS or the iPad in the car. But, ultimately, she’s not allowed to refuse to go if her only reason is a variant of “it sounds boring/I’m not in the mood to try anything new/I’d rather play Minecraft.” And she understands that if she wants privileges later on (such as Minecraft time), she has to at least *attempt* the new activity with as much grace as she can muster. In return, I do my best to respect her limits and give her an opportunity for a break or an out if she’s pushing up against those limits.

    You *can* put the hermit impulse to good use, however. Ever since she turned 10, Rachel has been begging to be allowed to stay home by herself while I go on short errands. I’ve told her that if I’m to let her stay home alone, she needs to prove to me that she’s mastered some basic home-alone skills: using the phone, preparing a simple meal (without using the stove), performing simple first aid, and knowing what to do if someone knocks on the door or if the fire alarm goes off, among other things. And heaven help me, the desire to finally be rid of us for a couple of blissful hours is *really* motivating her to learn these important life skills! So far I trust her enough to leave her in the house for 30-45 minutes at a time. Maybe you can harness that hermit instinct to do the same.

    • I love this comment. You should start your own blog and I will read it religiously and follow all your advice. :) I vaguely remember Sam being nightmarish at this age and he turned out pretty well, so I still have hope.

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