Just a couple of days ago, we attended a family event that was housed in the party room of an apartment building. The apartment building of an aunt on my husband’s side who is 70+ years old and has never had children… which means we could predict that outside of just kind of “hanging out” with their cousins, our 3 sons (roll the “My 3 Sons” credits in your head right now) at ages 11, 9, and 4 might get pretty bored.
So I planned ahead. I said “bring as many games as you want that will fit into this bag”. My husband assured that there were frisbees in the car in case we found someplace outside to use them. We stopped by the falls beforehand to allow the boys to run a bit and burn some energy.
I have come to discover that this kind of planning ahead is my external strength as a mother. I say external, because I think of things like supporting and listening to my kids, understanding their problems and issues and so forth, as internal ones. I kind of assume most parents have those internal strengths, you know?
I have a very good friend who is a stay-at-home dad and he used to put me to SHAME with all of the amazing and enriching activities he did with his kids. Orchestra performances, art appreciation workshops, museum-hopping where the kids actually learned something instead of just playing with the gadgets. We’d get together and he’d tell me about 5 different things he did with the kids the day before – all of which expanded their cognitive, social, and physical development. And I’d say, “Um. We went to the park.” I bet you think I’m exaggerating here.
I am not crafty. I struggle to sit through a round of pretend play. I don’t know how to build more than walls or towers with Legos. If I don’t have cookie cutters, I have no idea what to do with playdough. I do not have the creative energy to figure out all of those wonderful experiences for my kids (I need my friend Jon to return to the States so I can just have us tag along with him again), I can barely even remember to sign my kids up for the fun Community Education enrichment courses over the summer. When I do remember the ONE course my kids want to take is either full or we are too late to sign up.
However, thinking ahead to how my kids might be bored or stir-crazy and bringing something to combat that? This I can do. And if I am really on my game and the thing I bring is something they haven’t seen in awhile, big score. We went to an outdoor wedding several years ago and I brought a double-sided mini-easel. Chalkboard on one side, dry erase on the other. Both kids (there were only 2 at the time) could play at that same time. At Christmastime, when we used to have the BEST SANTA EVER at the Mall of America (still do, but he’s all privatized-like now – different story), there would be HUGE lines and good lord can adults even wait in a lines for that long let alone kids? We brought stories and games. I carry a card game in my purse that we don’t ever play unless we are out and about.
So, even though I cannot think of a single kids’ song when I’m suddenly pressed to do so, come up with any creative game other than the overused “I Spy”, or make up a story to save my life, I can at least count on the fact that I have remembered to pack an activity that some other creative genius invented and pull it out like magic.
And because you know you wanted me to include it: