As the boys and I began to plot our summer, we fell back to the great activity we started last year. We listed many activities to add simple joys into our lives and folded them on paper strips that we could draw at random from a glass jar.
This may seem like a simple, yet fun, way to plot your summer, but for us, it represents an entirely different worldview. We had been that stereotypical family that overplanned and detailed their days out far in advance so that there was little wiggle room. The pressure to make it through everything was at a constant high, and emotional burden from failed efforts constantly nagged at us.
Last year, I knew my family needed to feel a change. We couldn’t continue feeling constantly frustrated or disappointed or angry at each other, all as fallouts from not meeting our own ridiculous expectations. We needed a way to force ourselves to slow down and to take each day at a time.
I’m not quite sure where the idea came from, but I’m forever grateful that we implemented it. Choosing our activities at random taught us to be open to new experiences and to be spontaneous. The activities themselves ranged from typical summer items like going to the beach, to things that were simple, but caused us to remember the small joys in life. Think walk barefoot outside or do cartwheels, anything that would give you a few moments to connect with yourself and with your world.
Recently, I’ve seen some negative reviews about the book I wrote to highlight how significantly our lives were impacted, and I have felt a little down about that. I received so much encouragement as I told people what had changed in our lives and what we had learned, but I know this comes across much more enthusiastically in person versus in writing. I’m planning to address those comments and change some story details so that it reflects this better.
But to be honest, as the boys and I read through our activity strips from last year and thought about new ones we wanted to add, I felt a renewed sense of purpose. I know that my family isn’t the only one who struggles in this way and I still believe in the message I wanted to bring to people: changing how we go about our family activities needs an overhaul and we need to bring back simple ways of connecting and enjoying our time together.
Memories with children should be based on moments of joy and not just ways to fill time, so the simpler, the better. As parents, sometimes it is hard to recognize when we’re trying to cram too much in for the sake of doing everything possible instead of truly immersing ourselves in something in a way that brings peaceful enjoyment. After all, if you’re not happy running up against a hundred deadlines, how happy do you think your children are?