1) It's all in the tone of your voice
No, not a lesson to my kids to stop whining (but I would be all for that!).
I have discovered that a little enthusiasm (fake or otherwise) goes a long way towards buying some cooperation and agreeability. I should have already known this, but I'm just now starting to really put it into practice. I swear, the results are truly surprising, at least for my (occasionally) grumpy monster.
Are you READY?
Who wants to go for a WALK?
We get to have SANDWICHES for lunch!
The trick is to overact. Say it loudly, with eyebrows raised, barely contained emotion in your voice, and be ready to follow up with some YAY! and WOOHOO! Body language counts too.
I really want this trick to last for a little while, so I am trying to be careful to use it sparingly, mixed in with lots of things that don't need the extra boost:
It's time for ICE CREAM!
Let's play DINOSAURS!
2) Context is everything
Example 1: Are road-trips with young kids hellish? It depends.
Two-day road trip to get to vacation spot.
Both kids are cranky. The Monster doesn't even have a nap, at any point, on either day of the long drive. Much crying, complaining, refusing to share the water bottle, attempts to hit each other with plastic dinosaurs and window screens. The Monkey demands booby the entire way, meaning I get to float my boob acrobatically in his mouth the entire drive, with him strapped into his car seat.
Result: Macondo Papa gets a migraine. Macondo Mama gets a neck that won't turn sideways for a few days. General grumpiness all around.
Two-day road trip to return from vacation spot.
Both kids nap. The Monster's daily nap coincides with the Monkey's afternoon nap, on both days. Booby is not offered or requested while driving, meaning I get to sit up front the whole way. Silly songs are sung. Carnivorous dinosaurs eat herbivorous ones. A phone call during the kids' extended nap on the second day suggests a dream job may be in the works for Macondo Papa.
Result: Kids are well-rested. Macondo Papa and Macondo Mama spontaneously rub each other's knees and tell each other 'I love you'. A lot. General bliss all around.
Example 2: Are power outages in the extreme heat bearable? Well, no, but it depends.
8:30pm, power goes out, it is 37°C (47°C with the humidex)
Monster is 10 minutes into watching the first video he's been allowed to see in a month. Waaaaaah! Monkey suddenly develops what appears to be an intense fear of the dark and need to be holding both parents' hands all the time. Waaaaaah! Dinner is only just barely in preparation. The temperature rises. The heat rashes get itchy. There is only slightly more air outside, and lots of mosquitoes.
Result: All I can say is that I am glad to have given birth to two kids, so I know I can deal with anything. Not enjoy it, or breathe through it, or get into a state of mind and let it flow through me, but deal with it. And be really really happy when it's over.
10:30pm, power goes out, it is 37°C (47°C with the humidex)
The kids have eaten, Macondo Papa takes the monkey for a drive, and I try out my new 'enthusiasm trick' (see above) with the monster: we bring a blanket outside to get eaten by the mosquitoes and enjoy the stars. We giggle and talk and point.
Result: Sleeping monkey, itchy mama, probably a night to remember for the rest of his life for the monster. Still way too hot for humanity.