Speaking strictly as a parent of a relatively small child with a large age gap between him and my oldest, I find I have a new appreciation for the "early years"- when they are excited about everything, from tractors to turtles. They get excited when it snows, they are thrilled enough to dance when a great song comes on the radio, or can't wait to try on a new pair of shoes. My oldest somehow seems more jaded, less excited, and is likely to roll his eyes if I were dare to suggest dancing in the kitchen with his brother and I.
That being said, a little glimmer of the boy who used to be shows up sometimes, at the most curious of times. And so here is a list of things I do for our family to try to entice my first son back into those moments, and I hope it inspires you!
1. Eat something new.
-My reasoning? People generally eat the same things all the time. We may vary it slightly from day to day, but the same foods will always show up in our shopping carts and on our dinner tables. My first son is at an age where trying new flavours is kind of fun, and my second son is at the age where we need to keep encouraging his taste buds to grow up a little. It doesn't have to be that often, but once or twice a month try throwing something new in your shopping cart. You may find a few new favorites for yourself or your family, and by varying what foods you eat you are adding more nutrition to your diet.
Today we tried a persimmon for the first time ever. My husband and first son ate it, but my second son did his "I'll pretend I'm so scared I'm shaking" routine and I didn't force it. It will show up in our house again, because it turns out they're really good for you. The flavour on its' own wasn't anything I loved. My husband described it as a sweeter carrot/apple hybrid fruit. However, after trying it by itself I ate it with other fruit and found the texture stood up well but the taste didn't overwhelm. I think it's going to be a favorite ingredient in fruit salad. It was a bit tricky on how to tell when it was ripe, though, so do some research before trying one yourself!
-My reasoning? Life is full of opportunities to dance, from weddings to gym class, from class reunions to block parties. I love dancing, but my husband, sadly, does not. I hope that my boys will love to dance when they're adults and their significant others are waiting to hit the dance floor with them.
Turn up the tunes and dance. We recently developed a house rule that states that once a day, each person in our house can call "dance break" to whatever song they happen to fancy at that moment and we all have to get up and dance, no matter what.
3. Go somewhere. Anywhere.
-My reasoning? At my house, we get so caught up in the daily grind and routines that we can easily pass each day in a monotonous drone state. I think that's why I love planning camping trips so much. It forces us to unplug and go somewhere to do something together. But even if camping's not your thing, or you're almost smack in the middle of winter, there are so many things you can do with your family that don't cost anything except time. Some of them are more easy to do in the summer, I know. But take these as ideas, and make them your own.
For example, you could: go to the playground and play on the equipment or in the sand with your kids (gasp! I know! I hate sand too), go to a field and kick a soccer ball or play catch, play tag, go on a nature walk, have a picnic, go tobogganing, walk to the grocery store, draw on the sidewalk with chalk, collect leaves and press them, do nature rubbings (trees, gravestones, leaves, rocks, etc), go for a family walk, and play eye-spy.
Some paid activities are fun too, and would make great gifts if people are asking for ideas, such as: bowling, rock climbing, laser tag, museum exploring, and historical sight seeing (such as Fort Edmonton, or the 1881 school house).
3. Read a book together.
-My reasoning? I still remember the first book that captured my imagination and set free my mind. It was grade 4 and our teacher had us reading in the hallway. That sounds strange, but that's what I remember. My back leaning against the wall, sitting next to the water fountain, and I was walking with Lucy through the back of a dusty old wardrobe into a snow-covered world. Until that moment, I had no idea that books could transport you somewhere else.
Reading with your family will give you a chance to explore new worlds together. It's ok if it's not your favorite genre. The point of this activity is to first of all, spend time together, not attached to cell phones or tv's, but to really just be together, in the same space, focused on the same thing, together. The second reason- and it's so important- is to foster a love of reading in your own family. Reading is an essential life skill, and this article here goes into detail.
4. Cook together.
-My reasoning? Yes, I am a meal planner, but I love actually making the meals too. Over the last year I've come to realize that that's fairly unusual. I'm encouraging my kids to help me cook dinner, not just make muffins or cookies, because even though real food doesn't come with a nutrition label, it is still loaded up with nutrition on its' own. I had an alarming vision of my boys and their spouses eating takeout or hamburger "supporter" boxed meals every day. I don't want them to depend on someone else cooking for them, and I want them to be adventurous in trying new foods and flavours. Food isn't scary, and cooking doesn't have to be stressful. I want to teach them these tools now while they're young, and hopefully it will keep them in good stead when they're older.
5. Be active together.
-My reasoning? In my recent Nutrition and Lifestyles course, physical fitness was defined as "The ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy (leisure) pursuits and to meet unforeseen emergencies."
(1. Clarke, H.H. (ed). Basic understanding of physical fitness. Physical Fitness Research Digest, 1971;1(1). Presidents Council on Physical Fitness and Sport. Washington, DC.)
I admit it freely, we are a techie family. I'm a geek, I married a geek, and if there is some fabulously cool device or gadget you can bet we've probably tried it too. Unfortunately this leads to a state of sedentarism that is compounded by the fact that we live in a predominantly cold place and none of us really like traditional outdoor cold weather activities. The only way around this is for us grown ups to pull up our socks (and our ski pants, and scarves, and toques, and mittens, and winter coats, and winter boots...), get our kids trussed up the same way, and go outside. I don't think it's just enough to go outside though- we also need to act like it's fun too, or at least not so bad. My first son and I walked to get his haircut today. My excuse was something along the lines of "it will take too long to clean off and warm up the car, and it's not that far, so let's just walk there."
We survived! And he didn't even whine.
6. Give something together.
-My reasoning? It's easier to be self-absorbed than altruistic. But we are not islands, standing alone in a large sea. We are part of our city, which in turn is part of our province, our country, our continent, and our world. This global village is interdependent, whether we recognize it or not. As global citizens, it is our responsibility to try to make the world a better place.
We received a couple of requests from 2 equally deserving organizations in Edmonton that prepare Christmas dinners for homeless and less fortunate families. I had my first son read both letters, and then pick the one we'd help, and the amount we would give. I explained to him that the money would be coming out of our Christmas budget, and that starting this year, Christmas isn't just about us, but others. This is something we have talked about before, but we only recently started actually budgeting our monthly income, and this is only our second year in using cash, not credit.
It doesn't have to be money, and if you can swing it, time is such a welcomed gift as well. This summer we volunteered for the Inner City Housing commission on a fundraising event. This Christmas I am going to try to arrange to have our family assist with food hampers. It's as simple as looking for a need, and doing your best to fill it.
Here is a great article on how we are raising a generation of self-absorbed kids.
Here is a great video on learning to let go of the "drama of desire".
Here is a link to the gift giving guide through World Vision.
Thanks for checking out my list of ideas. I hope there is something here to inspire you, and I invite you to add to my list as well! Enjoy your weekend, and may your meals be marvelous!