One of my friends posted this Huffington Post article a couple weeks ago and it’s been in the back of my mind ever since. “I’m Done Making My Kid’s Childhood Magical” is of course an attention-seeking headline at first glance, but the content of the article nails exactly what’s been going off-course for our plugged-in generation and how we can stop it by simply relaxing. It’s such a great conversation starter on how we need to give ourselves permission and grace to stop being so hard on ourselves as parents.
Ask yourself “what made my childhood magical?” and see the simplicity of your own answers. For me, I was so fortunate in that my best friend lived next door. We spent endless hours drawing rows of stores, with pastel colored chalk, down our lengthy driveways and then “visiting” the shops on our RollerRacers. We would pretend we were Olympic ice skaters on our rollerblades; reporters with our own newspaper; radio DJs; mommies; famous singers; and a million other things that just required our vivid imaginations, chalk, a doll, and maybe a blank cassette tape or two.
In an age of social media where we only see the happy, successful moments in everyone’s life, it’s easy to forget that there are many other crazy, hectic, emotionally-draining, boring, messy, annoying moments that string together the minutes of each day. It’s bad enough that our human tendency is to compete, keep up with the Joneses, and want more, but to have that materialism showcased on the boards of Pinterest and the feeds of Instagram, makes us feel like even bigger failures when achieving that level of perfection seems completely unobtainable in our own life. Our real life. Away from the iPhone camera and status updates.
If you ask my 4 year-old what his favorite thing is he’ll say playing with Rescue Bots—which are 4 plastic figurines that were like $3 each. He’ll say that his favorite memory is when our power went out for 4 days this past Winter and we got to camp out at my in-laws’ house. He loves playing with sticks, rocks, and weeds in our very modest backyard, and often times if you ask him what he wants to do today, he’ll answer “stay home.” He’ll talk about his birthday parties for months on end. Parties that consisted of sandwiches and cake for both sets of grandparents, a few aunts and uncles, and 1 cousin his age. That’s not to say we don’t do Disney trips (my parents live 10 minutes from there), or try and go out of our way to make special memories like sleeping in a tent in the backyard, but his takeaway from those memories is always the most simplest thing. A food we ate, a joke that was told, or, most notably, who was there.
Without having mentioned the Huffington Post article, I had a similar conversation last week with an older woman at my church. She told me that when her children were young she read the importance of “making memories” for her kids. So she took them to the beach but all they did was play in the sand, and she thought, “hm, we have a sandbox in our backyard.” She took them to the zoo but all they wanted to do was chase the pigeons. And she took them to the circus, but all they cared about was eating popcorn. I love that story. I think it so perfectly paints an image of what the true takeaway memory will be.
So ask yourself, and your kids tonight: what’s your favorite thing? What’s the best thing that happened today? I think you’ll find it will be pretty easy to replicate tomorrow.