It would be wonderful if every time I plan an event for my family that it goes perfectly and everyone has a great time. However, if I can be honest, there are a lot of times when something my wife and I think will be a great experience for our kids and us as a family is met with “ho hum.”
Maybe it’s the nature of kids “these days.” If it’s not online or electronic, it’s not of interest for more than a few minutes.
Maybe it’s that we as parents look back to our childhood with nostalgia and choose activities that are more interesting to us than they are to our kids.
Maybe it’s that the kids do actually have an okay time, but in the footsteps of Clark Grizwold (Chevy Chase) we set up expectations that no family outing can live up to.
Whatever the reason, sometimes camping trips, days at the theme park, athletic competitions, or trips to the symphony do not generate the same level of excitement and enthusiasm for all. We may even have to fall back on that time-tested parental standby phrase, “This is a character building experience.” My parents used that one on me several times, especially when attending classical music concerts.
And yet, time spent together never seems a waste, at least not to me.
My wife and I took our kids on a 3-hour trip up to Kansas City this past weekend for the annual Fall Renaissance Festival. I enjoyed this event very much as a freshman in high school, in particular because I was interested in medieval history, swords, armor, dragons, and cute girls who roam around plentifully at such events. I figured my boys and little girl would also find amusement in the music, food, costumes, human-powered rides like the dragon boat and a merry-go-round. For a time, they did. But I could tell as the day went on and the crowds got thicker and the sun grew hotter, the kids’ interest was wearing thin. By the time the 3 o’clock afternoon joust rolled around, they were ready to leave. We managed some cheering for our heroic knight as he galloped across the field to bust a lance on his opponent’s shield, but I think most of the cheering was because kids simply enjoy yelling at the top of their lungs without being shushed by their parents.
So it wasn’t a bad trip, but it wasn’t a great trip either. It was decidedly “average.” We spent six hours in the car and some pretty decent money and left with the feeling they’d just as soon have stayed home and played Nintendo.
I may be looking through this with a bad perspective. In years to come, perhaps I’ll hear them talk about, “that time we saw all the people dressed up funny,” “shooting archery targets,” and “gnawing on a smoked turkey leg like barbarians.” But for now, I have to trust that my wife and I gave it our best effort, and it didn’t result in the dazzling cheers and excitement a 10-minute drive to the Incredible Pizza restaurant and game center would have. Sometime family events end up that way: and that’s okay. We’re learning what our kids like, what they dislike, and through it all we spend time with each other.
I think my parents were wise and ultimately right to drag me along to the symphony. Learning how to participate in an event, as a family, builds character after all, in both parents and kids.