Life is busy. Life is busier with kids, and full. A full life is a happy life and one of which you should be both proud and thankful. In the hubbub of life it is sometimes difficult to slow down enough to really take it all in and enjoy everything. There are school pickups and bedtimes, homework, diapers, baths, messes, meals, and toys everywhere. In the midst of it all, how do we, as parents, be sure to stop and smell the roses? Or, as it so happens, the freshly washed hair of your cuddly toddler?
I grew up very simply with my family of five. I have never been to Disneyworld. We didn’t stay in fancy hotels for vacation; we went camping because it was cheap and fun at the same time. We did not receive extravagant gifts for Christmas or birthdays, but we were made to feel very special. Our parents didn’t buy us cars, but they cosigned on the loan. I did not miss out. I have a treasure trove of wonderful memories from my childhood. I so want the same for my daughter.
How do we, as parents, be sure to fill our children’s lives with wonderful memories?
Vacations are a great way to build memories. Somehow the “remember that time…” is almost always from a time away from home. As you see, vacations do not have to be over the top. You can even do touristy things in your own town to build memories and share quality time together. Whatever you do, be sure to leave enough room in your schedule to just hang out and enjoy each other’s company.
Play games! My husband and I are not the biggest fans of playing games, but they are a great memory maker and we always enjoy ourselves when we do play. Just the other night I was telling my husband about a game I played with my nieces called Story Cubes. One of my nieces is almost fourteen while the other just turned four. It’s a great game for all ages. Anyway, I was telling my husband how we are going to have to buy and start playing games as a family now that we have a daughter!
I have wonderful and hilarious memories of our family playing Trivial Pursuit throughout our childhood. When I was very young, I was on my mother’s team and she went to answer the phone (back when everyone had the fifty foot telephone cord). The question was “What was the final line in Gone With the Wind”? So I went and asked her. Mom answered, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” and I could not believe she said the “D” word! We got the answer wrong though since the last line in the film is actually Scarlett’s, “Tomorrow is another day!” ("Tara! Home. I'll go home, and I'll think of some way to get him back! After all, tomorrow is another day!")
My second Trivial Pursuit memory is shared with both my sister and my brother. When we were a bit older and playing the family favorite, my mother would get sleepy. It was probably a Sunday afternoon or evening and she would lounge on the couch. When it came to her turn she would be halfway unconscious and say, “I’m thinking! I’m thinking!” and some inaudible answer may or may not come forth. It soon became a family joke that if my mom ever said anything that didn’t make sense that she was “thinking”!
In my house growing up, we ate pretty healthy. My mom didn’t buy “kid food” or processed junk (Thanks mom!). I lamented over the colorful Squeezit drinks on the shelves and the totally convenient and must have Lunchables that somehow never made it to the shopping cart. All of my friends had them. I had homemade sandwiches and sliced apples. No one ever wanted to trade lunches with me, I had the “boring lunch”. My lunch did, however, have a surprise here and there. Some days I would open a bag of (gasp!) potato chips and discover (thank God!) that they were salt and vinegar. Or “plain chips” as my best friend and I called them in order to ward off the inevitable “Can I have one?” from our hungry tablemates. Other days I would open my bag to find a note of encouragement or a simple “I love you” written on my napkin from my mother. I didn’t miss out (and I’m way slimmer than my friends who grew up with the “cool” lunches).
There were no elaborate craft projects or photo shoots. I do remember my mom turning us loose with Play-Doh on the dining room table. We just had to put wax paper down first. The fun we had!
Some of my favorite memories with my mom were after my siblings were both in school. I was the youngest and that meant I had time alone with mom for two years before I had to join the ranks in school as well. When we went to the grocery store, mom would let me ride under the cart and be sure to get me a free cookie from the bakery. One time, as mom was perusing the snack aisle, I decided to help myself to a canister of Planters Cheez Balls, remember those? The lids were not childproof. My mom was oblivious to my sudden hunger pangs until she noticed the trail of orange puffs of cheesy goodness continually dropping from behind the cart.
One of my favorite places to go with my mother was the library. It was the one place that we went where I could pick out as much as I wanted and take it all home! The one caveat being, of course, that we had to bring them all back eventually. But who cares? I was able to revel in the luxury of glorious books for days! The library was my candy store.
One special thing in my family was the much-anticipated “Day Out With Dad”. This day was counted down for months. Each of us three kids had a day with dad individually. On said day, we got to choose where we went and what we did. It was rare to have dad all to yourself and even rarer to be able to choose a little day trip destination complete with fun activities! Perhaps we would drive the hour to Columbia and go to the zoo or go to the water park in the summer and ride waterslides all day. Wherever it was, it was special.
My siblings and I played tag in the front yard while we waited for our bus. We also made mud pies on top of the rabbit hutch in the backyard. My brother even built a little wooden “house” for our pet frogs we would catch when we sprayed water into the air conditioning fan outside. Didn’t you do that too?
Some of the best memories in the world are built simply out of play.
If we were lucky enough to be staying in a hotel . . . we were always allowed to jump on the beds! Oh the joy of being able to jump on furniture to your heart’s content!
Every once-in-awhile, my mom would say, “Let’s have Blizzards for dinner!” and we each got to choose our favorite treat from the Dairy Queen right outside the neighborhood. See? Nothing elaborate in my childhood, but I have many fond memories.
One time my parents challenged us three kids to eat our chocolate pudding sans hands. There are some pretty amazing pictures of the three of us with our faces in our bowls of pudding!
Traditions are important to the making of memories as well. Each year, when we decorated the Christmas tree as a family, it was a different child’s turn to put the Angel on top of the tree. It was the crowning jewel. When we were little dad would lift us all the way up there so we could place the pretty topper and once we were older it was up the ladder you go. On New Year’s Eve, we used to have a family slumber party in the living room. We all got to choose our favorite snacks (junk food included!) for the evening and we watched wonderful movie marathons like the Start Wars Trilogy or Indiana Jones. Then, we all slept in sleeping bags after midnight right where we were!
As we got older, our parents always let us have our friends over to hang out and watch movies. The more the merrier. We never had any trouble borrowing the mini van to take our friends out somewhere exciting like Waffle House or Sonic.
My sister and I used to get up on Saturday mornings and roll our TV stand around to the kitchen and watch old movies on AMC while we baked sweet breads and cookies. Mom never complained!
Sometimes we are so busy trying to create memories that we forget to just stop and enjoy our children. Money doesn’t have to be involved. Sometimes a simple pillow fort or story time will do the trick. Sprinklers are a sure way to put a smile on your little ones’ faces!
If you are so busy, and let’s face it we all are, then here are some ideas of ways to spend quality time with your children.
Go for Walks
Take nature walks together. You can even come up with a simple scavenger hunt of sorts. Perhaps one day you keep a look out for bugs, another day you might look for types of leaves or flowers. Just spending time together and slowing down and looking around you will do wonders for you as a parent and for your child.
Do you have a garden? Grab some rocks and some paint and transform them into kitschy items to stick around outside. Ladybugs, butterflies, frogs, and beetles are just a few ideas.
Take the kids to the Drive-In and pack a picnic. The kids will think it’s fun and it’s an inexpensive way for the family to see a movie on the big screen. Tell the kids that is that is how their grandparents watched movies growing up!
Hide & Seek
Who said old games are boring? Wait until dusk or after dark and get the entire family together in the backyard for an old fashioned game of hide and seek.
Create a Cooking Show
Grab the camera and record your family making their own cooking show. Watch it back as you eat the delicious food for dinner.
I always loved these as a kid. The possibilities are endless. From setting up a hunt to lead to a birthday present, to having a neighborhood hunt complete with knocking on neighbors’ doors, there are many ways to fit scavenging in. Perhaps you include a couple of families in the fun!
Who says you can’t camp in your own backyard? Remember to have a fire and roast marshmallows. The kids will enjoy cooking over the fire with you. Don’t forget to gaze at the stars!
As a new mom, I am vowing to try and make every day count. I want special occasions to be special and holidays to be memorable. Do something extra special to make them know that they are loved. Time is one of the best ways to do this and it doesn’t cost you anything.