“We only have eighteen summers with them.” A friend’s social media post recently took me aback. We have eighteen summers to enjoy with our kids. Our family has spent many summers in the army’s “moving season”, and we try to make the most of it. Usually we see family (as we do not always have the opportunity). Major vacations are great, but I believe that it does not matter so much where we spend time or what we do. It is how we spend our time together, and that we are together. Our kids might remember unique destinations and sights, but the interactions between each other surpass any of those.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all those interactions were purely laughter and love? Realistically, there are some “memorable experiences” that can feel like we are holding a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle with two hands, just watching the edges of content and happy attitudes crumble. On the last Friday before my oldest son’s first day of 2nd grade, I was reminded of lessons that have helped us enhance quality time.
Quality Time Lessons
Lesson 1: Take opportunity to connect with your kids, even if your plan isn’t fully developed.
My plan was to have an “adventure boy day”, since I only had my three boys as my daughter’s school was already in session. It was supposed to be something outdoors. That was my plan. The rest of this plan evolved, starting seconds after leaving my daughter’s school parking lot. We stopped at the local grocery store for lunch supplies and a few bottles of water. A subsequent idle of my engine in the driveway to pick up the “emergency adventure backpack” that had a spare towel, sunscreen and a few one-size-fits-all clothes and a few diapers; and we were off.
I did not have ALL the clothes one might have wanted after getting wet or muddy, but I knew we would survive. I had all the water I could carry, even though I knew I would have had to ration it at some point on the journey home. After all, Bear Grylls claims that we can live for three days without water, right? (Not that I want to reach anything close to that threshold…LOL).
Lesson 2: We don’t have to spend a lot of money. Kids really do enjoy the little and often free things.
I envisioned learning how to hook worms on fishing poles and old-fashioned muddy fun. Then, I realized that I had no fishing license. I am also a wimp with bugs and like them better in my garden. I settled for just exploring that would hopefully involve H2O (my first love 😉 ). We ended up at a small slice of public land with a mile long trail that follows a dammed river and spring fed creek.
Not more than fifty yards down the path, my middle son pointed out his footprints, and my youngest could not be pried from this phenomenon for several minutes. I guess nature’s sandboxes are the best. I remember a similar incident happening when a chunk of ice in the shape of a drainpipe mesmerized my daughter in the middle of Salzburg, Austria.
Sometimes we, as adults, get in the habit of rushing to our destination and checking off our sightseeing bucket list. However, taking the time to absorb these mini marvels teaches us patience and invites us into our child’s heart and mind, enabling us to truly connect with them.
Lesson 3: When the attitudes get cranky, the cranky get going. Balancing flexibility and determination is key.
The first watering hole we visited, we spotted tadpoles and splashed around. As we were about to head up the creek (just a tiny bit off the path), I warned my oldest son about poison oak. That friendly warning (at least from what I remember) threw my son into an uncooperative mood. Meanwhile, my younger two started complaining about mud in their toes and droplets of water on a t-shirt! This was not the Mark Twain adventure I had in mind.
As much as I wanted to blame them for being wimpy, I knew there was more in them that I could count on. When these cranky moods discourage me, it helps to either change the way we do things or the destination (and sometimes change my expectations too). We were not going to the end of the trail that day, but we were also not going back to the car yet, and we were not going to travel up the creek. Instead, we played follow the leader up some wooden steps, back to the trail (maybe a wrong turn here or there and call to my husband to tell him where we were that day…LOL), and we made it to a beautiful halfway point: a freshwater spring and waterfall!
Had we not been flexible and determined to continue, we would have missed out on so much. For example, my son tested his newly acclaimed swimming skills, and I will never forget his proud grin. We spotted minnows and played simple games they created. The experience reminded me of Neverland. It was a little world into their hearts and mind that I hope I never forget, and it made the struggle getting there worth it!
Thanks for reading!
Note: I realize I have not posted in a while, but I figured that it wouldn’t be a blog about imperfect, crazy mom-life if I never missed a post. Sorry about that; We are still here collecting adventures, recipes, deep-ish thoughts to share 😊!