It’s that time of year when things really begin to ramp up. Holidays are around the corner and before we know it, Thanksgiving and the Christmas mad rush are upon us leaving us spinning. Too often, it’s a time when the pressure of getting stuff done takes priority over relationships. It all too easily spirals into snappiness where conversations are replaced with barked instructions and complaints. It’s a recipe for unhappiness and insecurity for our children and, if we’re honest, ourselves.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. How do we break these cycles? I propose that one simple way is to take a few moments to plan something quick, fun, out-of-the-ordinary, and stress-free. Something cost-effective or even free. Something that builds into our kids. Here’s how:
Start with thinking back…
If you think back to your childhood, what warm-and-fuzzy family memories stand out the most? For most of us, they’re the memories of that thing “we always did as a family.” Or, they’re those once-off crazy moments when your family did something, spontaneously and full of joy. Long before I was a momma, I remember reading a book by our pastor’s wife. She told a story of how her husband, our esteemed pastor, woke the kids up in the middle of the night one night. Before she knew it, he and the three kids were whooping through the living room and into the pool! She was rather aghast when she asked him what on earth he was doing. His reply? Making memories.
And that has stuck with me ever since.
When I think back to my own childhood, the warm-and-fuzzies are reserved for those special memory-making moments. Like: the getting up in the dark to pile into a over-packed car and watching the sun rise from the highway to our holiday destination. I can still smell the egg-mayo sandwiches my mother made for breakfast later that morning. And despite not being a huge fan of egg-mayo, the smell brings back many awesome memories. Or: the long after-church chats around the kitchen table while chomping on bovril-and-butter toast (yes, a South African staple one has to grow up with to really enjoy). Even though not all the memory-making moments were planned, all of them had the same elements – sharing joy with my family members.
Next, think a bit about why these memories were so good…
Making great memories simply for the sake of making memories is awesome. But, I believe that these awesome family memories also contribute towards a healthy family life – it creates cohesion in the family. It builds into the platform of trust and security for your children to be able to be open and honest with you as parents. When life is not all serious; when we are invested in our kids’ lives in all sorts of ways; when we build good times together into their memory banks; when we enjoy life with our kids, they can rest more securely in the knowledge that they are loved and appreciated. Home is then not a place but a people – a family.
Finally, put some thought into what works / may work for your family…
When our kids came along, my heart desired many things for our children. Near the top of that list was many lasting good memories of their childhood as a family. It’s been 13 years of parenthood for us, and the memories are many. Some intentionally built into our family-life fabric; some that have sprung up from spontaneous moments. Very often those spontaneous moments have morphed into a repeated pattern and a new tradition. What works for us? Two things – tradition and surprise.
Establishing a family tradition can be something as simple as a weekly pizza evening, or an annual outing. It could be something you always do for Christmas or even just before bedtime. Think about what sparks your kids’ joy and work with that. In our home, Christmas and Easter have become very special days for us with traditions such as our advent calendar that tells the story of the entire Bible over 25 days or, at Easter, our adaption of the Passover meal. They’re hard work and have the potential to cause more strife than joy if we let them, but the kids will not let us give them up – especially our teen who was the most put out when we suggested perhaps not having a Passover meal this past Easter. Why? Because that’s what we do, Mom! And so we keep it up, for the sake of the learning that happens and for the sake of the memories.
But, it doesn’t have to be complicated and effort-heavy. Our of our more simple traditions includes Friday night pizza every week and regular reading aloud of great stories together.
And it doesn’t have to be a tradition. It can simply be something you do from time to time or enjoy together. A big “happy memory” outing for our family is to take a walk in the nearby mountains. We throw some apples and a couple bottles of water into Dad’s backpack and off we go. Dad almost always has the kids turning over rocks to find scorpions and other rock-dwellers, and there are usually exhausted, dirty but happy kids when we return home.
Without a doubt, however, the most fun to be had usually comes with the element of surprise. Recently, my husband suggested we take the kids on a night drive to see a road-side exhibition of painted animals, especially made to light up at night with reflective paint. We told the kids nothing aside from the fact that we would be doing something after supper that Thursday night. All week the kids were super excited, trying to guess. Eventually the evening was dubbed Mystery Night by one of the kids. It was a simple, even educational, outing and not too exciting by kids’ normal standards, but they loved it. All the hype and build-up had them so excited just to be in the car at night. Since then, any surprise activity has been called Mystery Night, or Afternoon, or Morning. It’s been a fun trip to the local toboggan place, or a visit to the Spring flowers. Sometimes it’s even just another walk in the mountains, but each time the element of surprise has the kids excited and enjoying the guesswork that has them teaming up in the most delightful of ways.
These are just a few of the ways we’ve been able to make memories with our kids. Your special memories may be completely different, but choosing to get out of the funk of daily drudgery to do something fun or different is almost guaranteed to inject a memory-making moment into your family’s mental photo album. So, go for it! Do something different today simply because you can. Whether it’s a PJ run through drive-thru to get an ice-cream cone or a run down to the park or even a quick game of hide-and-seek with mama being the first to seek, you’re well on your way to making the kind of memories that form part of the glue that keeps families together, happy, and secure.
Need some ideas for establishing traditions or fun ideas in your home? Try some of these from Hip Homeschool Moms: