Some of the very best times I have with my kids are spent doing the most mundane things. I cannot tell you how many times we’ve dreamed up elaborate day trips, vacations and excursion to “wow” the kids – and almost every time they never live up to anyone’s expectations. Give us an afternoon, though, with not that much to do – maybe weeding the garden, washing the car or cooking dinner – and we’ll have a ball. That time feels spur of the moment and truly “lived”.
Kids surprise you. Conversations come completely unscripted when there are no expectations. None of that “how was school?”…. “oh fine” stuff. Their brains dialogue freely when we share a task side by side.
I love to cook with my 9 year old. She is creative, funny and adventurous, and it comes out in her cooking. She shines during this one on one time. She has no qualms about throwing a little of this and that together to see how it will turn out. It makes me want to take a few extra chances here and there and to remember that I love to cook even though most of the time it’s a means to an end. This is fundamental bonding time – easy, tangible and precious.
My son has had the same birthday party for the last few years. It’s nothing fancy. In fact, it’s absurdly simple, and I keep wondering when he’s going to beg for an expensive shindig. He always asks to have a bunch of his best buddies to sleep over and camp outside in a tent under the stars. We have a cookout and a bonfire – and watch the boys run around in the yard for hours. They are in their element. We are doing nothing more than hanging out in the backyard with a few marshmallows on sticks and a couple of footballs to toss around.
Spending quality time with your kids can be done without actually “spending”. The quality evolves on its own – almost unexpectedly. Maybe that’s what makes it so sweet. In some of these cases, you almost fear you haven’t done enough. Are 6, 12 year old boys really gonna spend all afternoon running around outside? Should I have a back-up plan? Should I have signed my daughter up for Mommy and Me cooking classes? I’m not saying extraordinary surprises and memory makers are not great – they absolutely can be. However, the ease in making them a regular part of your daily life is mostly in recognizing there are opportunities to have fun that are simple and don’t require a ton of anything – just a bit of time.