Family Fun Days

By Melissa

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Often times while I’m at work, I will have patients ask me about my kids. When I tell them the ages of our three, I get a variety of comments. Most will say something about how busy I must be, some will give me the knowing-parent nod since they are in the trenches also, and some, especially my older patients, will tell me it goes so fast and to enjoy every minute. Depending on the day, and how much yogurt and/or applesauce has been smeared on the kitchen chairs and is waiting to be cleaned when I get home, I may or may not answer super sweetly. Because yes, I know that they are so precious and they will never be this little again, but sometimes it’s not fun to have a sticky film all over your kitchen, despite wiping it down constantly. And sometimes them dumping out a folded basket of laundry or tearing pages out of their books and emptying every toy bin at once isn’t as precious as my sweet old patients seem to remember. 

In fact, I have one patient that I adore, and he has said to me more than once that he would trade all of the money he’s ever made (he’s a surgeon, so it’s safe to say he’s made a bit) to have just one day again with his kids at ages 8 and 5. And while it’s a sweet sentiment, I am always tempted to ask, “But would all that money guarantee that they wouldn’t whine at all that day?” 😉

Like, will I ever be able to get a picture with all three of these crazies looking AND smiling???

Don’t get me wrong, I love our kids. I mean, like really really adore them. But SOME DAYS, some days, it’s like fire station drop off, here we come! Ya feel me? 

A big part of some of the tiredness that Philip and I experience also is that we are often parenting alone. (And to all those single parents or parents with a partner that travels often or works weird and/or long hours, hats off to you, you are doing a thankless work!) As much as we would love to have more normal schedules, that is just not a reality for us at this point. And while it saves us a lot on childcare to work opposite schedules, it means that our time together is limited. We often are taking turns getting kids off to school, cleaning up, making meals and doing the bedtime routine. I will be the first to admit that my patience wears thin on those solo parenting days, so on the couple days a week that we are all together, we were getting lazy because it was easy. But that laziness didn’t necessarily help us have better relationships with our kids or enjoy them any more, and we knew it needed to stop.

So, as we approached the New Year, we had some family goals, one of which was to have a Family Fun Day every week. We have one afternoon where the kids are home from school and we are both off, and have decided that it is a day that we want to spend together. It isn’t always a super exciting activity, but it is an INTENTIONAL activity. One that takes effort and sometimes a little extra planning or spending, but that overall helps us enjoy time together in the afternoons.

You guys, I know it hasn’t been going super long, but it has been the best thing for our little family. We have done the zoo, park visits, a children’s museum and this week have plans to go goofy golfing. And in general, even when Jade is trying to escape our family and run away at the park, or when Maren asks us to buy every last thing she sees in a gift shop, and Cohen just wants to eat snacks out of the diaper bag the whole time, we are making memories. Maybe not for them, but for us. We will remember these often chaotic adventures and when our kids are actually little. We can hang on to the giggles, the excitement and inevitable memories that are made.

Monkeys looking at monkeys. 🙂

In the wake of this week’s tragedy involving Kobe Bryant and his daughter, we have realized even more how precious these days and years are. In an interview, Bryan Shaw, a former teammate of Kobe, reflected on when his own family died in a car accident, and stated, “One of the things that kept me going is that while they were here, we lived, and we made a lot of memories together. When they’re gone, that’s all you have, are the memories.”

Good heavens, what a sweet sentiment. I want to make sure I have memories of my babies loving life, loving each other and loving our family time together. Whether it be a day spent at Disneyland or an afternoon playing Hungry Hungry Hippos, I want there to be memories of us all together. I know it isn’t easy for every family to implement this, especially those with big kids with big schedules, but I thought I’d add a few tips that have helped us better enjoy and make the most of our outings.

My version of capturing Big Foot.
  1. Only use your phone for taking photos. I’ll admit that while kids are happily playing, I’m always tempted to see what is new on Instagram. But instead, I have taken the time while they are playing nicely to actually capture them in their element or doing silly things. And when I occasionally get a really good shot, it always makes me feel like I just snapped a rare photo of Big Foot in the wild. And then the photos will enhance the memories that you’ve made. Win, win.
  2. Take a bottle of water, a few applesauce pouches and some fruit snacks. I’m telling you, I feel like any meltdown can either be calmed or averted by some snacks. And perhaps if you have a few sugar-lovers like I do, they will have fond memories of the snacks you brought. Maybe they won’t remember the museum, but the puppy shaped fruit snacks? Heck yes. It is frustrating and annoying, but in the name of Family Fun Day, have a delicious distraction to keep everyone happy. (And by everyone happy, I also mean you. So make sure you have a secret soda in your purse, or at least a small stash of SourPatch Watermelon candies. 😉)
  3. Anything is an activity. You want to go for a drive and not get out of the car? Sure! We call those “Ride Ho Ho”s. I don’t know where the name came from, but growing up my family lived for a good Sunday Ride Ho Ho. We never made any stops, just would go for a cruise and check out some scenery or a neighborhood with pretty houses or pass a little local farm with cows and horses. I’m sure my parents would have preferred to do the drives without us, but piling in our old van was the best part of the memory. Now we do Ride Ho Hos, park trips and other free things. I think going to the car wash might be on the docket soon and letting the kids play with the vacuums, because what is more fun than that?? We were also gifted POGO passes for Christmas this year which was how we got into the zoo, will allow us to do goofy golfing, some Diamondbacks games, Uptown Jungle and a few other indoor entertainment parks, etc. It really was the perfect gift for us this year as we were wanting to do more as a family, but also want to not spend a million dollars on these things. So with all these options, I think we can likely manage to find something to do at least 52 times this year.

That’s it! Yay for forced family fun! Obviously since we have small kids, a lot of these activities are specific to younger families, but encouraging family togetherness is something that I don’t think we will outgrow. As our kids get older and inevitably much too cool for us, we have thought about going to record stores and choosing a new album together, going on hikes, doing puzzles, going to the desert for bonfires, learning to take photos or some other skill together…again, it can be anything.

So next time Barbara or Janice or Herb comments on enjoying my sweet, mess-making babies, I can honestly answer that I am trying my best.

***Edited to add: POGO Pass has been great enough to offer us an affiliate link! If you click here, you can get it for the low price of $39.98! You will seriously love this, and it pays for itself after doing two activities, and there are dozens of things to do! Or hey, if you are looking to give a great gift to loved ones with small kids, that’s how we got ours and it was seriously such a happy surprise!

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