Turning the Ordinary into the Extraordinary
Looking back at my childhood it feels like the stuff of well written stories. I went to museums, spent afternoons at the community pool, played outside for hours and enjoyed stargazing in the flatbed of a pick-up with my best friend. When I think of all the activities I did as a child I want very much to provide all of those extraordinary opportunities and more for the children in my life. But, I always feel I am falling behind.
With each reminiscent childhood memory posted on Facebook, I can tell how the parents I know hope to provide the same extraordinary adventures for their children. However… there is always a “but”. Our jobs get in the way. We don’t have the money. The time has gotten away from us. The weather on our free days is just horrible. Not to mention any health issues that may keep us from fantasized plans.
Whatever the reason, some of us feel like we are failing our children. The good news is that most parents feel this way at one point or another. We just can’t keep beating ourselves up over it. The truth is that we can only do our best. When our best feels like it is lacking we need to cut ourselves some slack. Focus on what you provide and how much your children enjoy that.
So how can we give our children a childhood as awesome as the one we remember? How can we do that day after day? And not feel exhausted…?
Here are 5 steps towards turning the Ordinary into the Extraordinary:
Stop comparing what you are able to provide with what you see everyone else in your life posting on Facebook or talking about doing.
Remember that how we each approach a situation will always be distinct. What we see and hear our friends doing is often different from what fully transpired.
This is a step I am constantly reminding myself of. We may not go to the park everyday but we go at least four times a month, weather permitting. The area in which we live is not as blessed with museums as is Washington DC or another metropolitan area of that size. We do have an annual pass to our aquarium which the kids LOVE! Even though we do not have the money or time to do everything we see our friends with kids doing we still do fun things the kids enjoy.
You know your kids better than anyone else.
When our children are young we (the parents) are the authorities on their likes and dislikes. As they get older it is important to talk with our children about their evolving tastes.
So when planning activities… Young children are open to just about any activity that you might be interested in from walking at the mall to a trip to the aquarium. The key here is to make time for your children from birth. If you are constantly involving them in your activities from chores and exercising to trips to the park or the museum then they will enjoy spending time with their family no matter the activity. This opens up a world filled with opportunities to create lasting memories.
Fun and adventure come in many different forms.
Even an afternoon at the doctor office can go from mundane to a bit of decent fun if imagination is used. During one unexpected doctor appointment, my nephews used a container of anti-bacterial wipes (the only thing I had with me) to draw on the black plastic chairs they had been sitting in. They stayed busy for about forty minutes as we waited for their sister to be seen.
Take everyday boring activities and turn them into a game!
Ever since our nephews were 3 weeks and 13 months old, Rent-a-Dad and I have been trying to figure out how to handle our outdoor chores as we had always done: together. For the first year the only way we could do that is if a friend or family member took pity on us and watched the boys.
Now that the boys are 3 and 4, they are at an age where they can play outside while we mow the yard and weed the garden. Sometimes playing while we do our chores can seem a bit boring for the boys. They want to help or want us to play. So we decided to turn our outdoor chores into a contest. We set up the yard like a relay race and the prize for completing the race is to be the first person in the pool! A very well earned treat on a hot and muggy summer evening!
Enjoy all of the messy moments that occur in-between all the planned or perfect ones!
While I have loved each planned moment with the kids what I have found to be the most precious are all of the unexpected and messy moments. I try to keep a bag in our van that is packed with spare clothes for everyone in case an unexpected messy moment happens… like playing in the city fountain or jumping in that large puddle following the rain.
In early September our nephews had a stomach bug which meant scrapping all of our weekend plans. On the first day of feeling better we met up with some friends at a local restaurant. While talking after lunch was over the boys ran up a hill behind the restaurant.
For a few moments Rent-a-Dad and I thought we might have to chase after them but they stopped, turned and smiled at us. When they did that I encouraged them to roll down the hill remembering how much fun that used to be as a kid. They did exactly as I suggested. Fifteen minutes later they were very happy and very much in need of a little rest. It was the perfect example of an ordinary moment turned extraordinary.