These last 12 months have been testing for all of us, but especially for those of us with young children who are developing mentally and emotionally, all of whom need to see and do new things. If this last year and a few months has taught or reminded us of anything, at the top of the list would be the value of new experiences, for our children and for ourselves.
Like most homes and families, ours is very routine-oriented. Routine is a wonderful thing. It keeps us sane and moving in the right direction. It keeps our children on an understood path throughout the day that brings them stability they can rely on and trust. It helps us all bring order to what is, let’s face it, the chaos of the early years.
And while these routines are essential, for some more than others, they can also be responsible for a creeping misery of boredom, apathy, and simmering frustration, especially in times like these. To stop these unwanted feelings in their tracks, I’ve found that a little creativity and willingness to scrap the routine for a few hours goes a long way. At first, it’s easier said than done, but once you experience the benefits and just go with it, you’ll immediately recognize the importance.
I don’t know about you, but I can only go to Target so many times, or Costco, or Home Depot, or Trader Joes. Like a moth to a flame, these are sadly our default trips. We’ve gone to Target more these last few months than we had pre-COVID and it’s entirely on account of our need to get out of the house. It’s the most easily justifiable.
Somehow Target manages to convince us all that’s it’s the safest place to be. It’s essential. Come on in, the air is pure and you need something new. It’s fun when you spend all your money! How would you like to open a Target card? But the savings?! Ok. Our kids’ Christmas lists are getting crazy long and its only March. I guess we’ll find out this year how good their memory is.
One day last week, I closed my computer, put all work aside and changed the channel in my head to be solely focused on the boys for a few hours. School hadn’t been let out for the day yet so I took them to a somewhat forgotten playground where the neighborhood kids are mostly grown up, one that we had not been to for a while, just to give them something new. We played for about half an hour until we all spotted a big hill about 300 yards away.
And what kid doesn’t love a big hill?
For the next two hours we charged up the hill, fell down the hill, rolled down the hill, threw balls up and down the hill, and took our turns as King of the Kingdom. I had a blast. They had a blast.
As a parent it was very revealing. Sure, kids love a good hill, but the joy it unlocked was like nothing I had seen from then in a while. Our boys are happy kids, but it was a different level of happy on the hill that day. They were kings of their kingdom and nothing else mattered.
As I thought more about it, I realized that what we had done was simply broken the pattern of our life and introduced something completely new, as simple and silly as it might have been. The new experience, however simple, gave them a whole new energy and an entirely new setting to let their imagination run wild.
I’ll never forget that day. Those are exactly the type of experiences I want more of. Escaping the routine, putting down work, shifting focus completely — this was my lesson. We can all get so hung up on our day to day that we so often forget to stop and smell the roses, and the roses are everywhere; we’re surrounded by them. Sometimes we just have to break the pattern and find our own version of the hill to give our kids and ourselves a new setting, however simple, to spark a fire of joy and happiness that will stay with the entire family for days. Only then can we truly be kings of our kingdom.