I suppose it’s our own fault for having pie-in-the-sky expectations of our carefully plotted family bonding experiences going perfectly as planned. It just never quite turns out the way we dream it up as soon as we enter into the equation the little variables we call our children. Without further ado, let’s commiserate about the many ways our special family moments go awry.
- Road trips. What’s more of a family bonding experience than being trapped in a car for several consecutive hours? In preparation, you made six different trips to Dollar Tree collecting some exciting new junk, errrr, toys for your kids to unwrap every hour, on the hour as you traverse the country on your way to the big family reunion. You also stockpiled enough snacks to feed an army with the intent of cutting down on stops along the road. Well, the new junk toys only hold their attention for three minutes before they are either destroyed by them or confiscated by you. You gain twenty pounds in the ten hours you’re on the road because the snacks are stored by your feet for easy distribution/access and, as it turns out, the access/distribution process is too easy because you are stress-eating every last thing. You still stop every hour because you’re afraid to call your three year old’s bluff about needing to pee.
- Baking. I have very fond memories of baking cookies with my Grandma, probably because I was sneaking fistfuls of dough every time she looked away, but what I should really do is ask her how she recounts the whole process. Because baking experiences with my 6 and 3 year old girls typically go like this…someone is always shouting “it’s my turn now!”, a light dusting of flour is coating literally every surface of my kitchen, the beaters of the electric mixer magically turn on every time I turn my back and send goo every which way, and my girls are constantly sneaking fistfuls of dough. Which is how I know they’ll look back on these memories of baking with fondness.
- Walking around the block. Guys. Literally just walking around the block. How could this family bonding experience go so wrong? It should take no more than a half hour and no one’s legs should ache because they’re using the tricycles and whatnot that they begged us to buy to make their journeys more fun (and supposedly faster). Every time: we get exactly half way and one or both children simply can’t go on. They stage a sit-in on the sidewalk – never in the shade, mind you – until a parent agrees to carry them and their former mode of transportation the rest of the way home.
- Bike lessons. This would also apply to scooter lessons. Or skateboard. Or, my personal (least) favorite: roller skates. My word of advice to those parents who are just entering the wheel game? Wear steel toed boots. At least tennis shoes. And never sandals. Of course you’ll want to outfit your kid in a helmet, knee pads – heck, maybe even a rash guard. But be warned: You will sustain actual injuries if you, the innocent bystander, don’t suit up properly.
- Disney. I can’t comment on this one based from personal experience because I have the good sense to know that if I lose my cool on a simple walk around the block, I have no business walking around Disney or any other amusement park with young children in tow. However, I have a friend who recently took a family trip to Disney and came back a different woman. And not the rejuvenated, refreshed kind of different. Her mascara-stained face was puffy from weeping, her hair was disheveled and ratty, her beady eyes reflected the sorrow of a person who has seen too much. When I asked how their vacation went, “Wait ’til they’re older” is all she managed to squeak out before shuffling back to her bedroom in her robe and slippers. It must have been a bloodbath of a family bonding experience.
I do have good news, dear friends. Our family of four made it around the block recently in under 30 minutes and everyone rode their own bike the entire time! It was just like in my dreams. We all had actual fun. There is a lesson for us in all this. Just like we teach our kids: If at first you don’t succeed, try – TRY – again! You see, our kids don’t remember it the same way we do. They think back on all their bike rides, baking experiments, and adventures, only remembering that it ALL was a blast. And try not to wish away the moments of challenge or frustration – those are part of the process. As trying as parenting can be, for your sake and theirs, choose joy. Try to laugh when you feel like crying. You want them to remember you being there and enjoying them. And, seriously, if you reeeeeally can’t find the fun in these activities, farm out the experience to Grandma for a couple years until you reach the point where you can. Somehow, by the time we are Grandmas, we don’t care so much about the flour dusting in our kitchens as much as we relish the smiles produced when our little ones bite into their freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
What did I miss on my list? What cool bonding experience did you plan for your family that blew up in your face?