Here’s To Paper Plates, Daycations, and Other Free Family Fun

Why I Love Paper Plates And Daycations

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I took my son to the annual local carnival today. There were some pros like tasty food, giving him the chance to run, and having an excuse to get out of the house. But they were also a ton of cons like expensive rides, the food costing four times market value, and my son not being able to understand his mom is too broke to spend money on infinite tickets for kiddie rides. There was also the added benefit of forgetting to get my change after paying. Of course, when I returned, the booth attendee said she didn’t remember me so I wouldn’t get it back. I was angry and wished we’d created free fun on our own.

All in all, it was a waste of time. Since my son is only 2-years-old, he can’t participate in most of the rides. The experience reminded me why I prefer simple activities to extravagant family activities.

Our first child is young and our second child is still cooking. Vacations and family fun do not have to be fancy Instagram-worthy experiences like trips to water parks or Disneyland. Instead of dropping stacks on experiences they won’t remember, I choose to raise children who can appreciate simple pleasures, like staycations and local tourism with genuine excitement.

I’ve found the easiest way to accomplish all of the above. Not giving a *bleep* and having free fun, like:

Paper plate parties.

When I scroll social media, I see parents giving their young kids really extravagant parties. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but nothing will ever replace good food fashion paper plate parties.

You know, the ones were you have a few kids over (or just your own if you have a big family) and y’all eat hot dogs, nachos, and other foods that can go a long way. It doesn’t matter if it’s a park or a relative’s huge backyard as long as the kids have the space to run around.

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As a child, I thought the reason we used paper plates were because we were so cheap. As an adult, it’s become an excellent strategy to make clean up in a snap (and thereby saving us all from stressing out).

Daycations.

From time to time, I like to get together with one of my mom friends, load up the car and take a daycation. Sometimes we pre-plan; others times, we make things up as we go. With live in an area that’s surrounded by national parks, so we have more than enough places to visit. Most times, we end up in the middle of nowhere with enough space for each person to have a mile to themselves. It’s even better when we put together a potluck-style feast. It feels amazing to get away from the hustle and bustle of the world for half a day, without the inflated expectations and depleted bank account of a full vacation.

Unscheduled detours

My college experience was filled with drives home that often turned into unexpected detours. It was nothing to make a sudden right and exit off the freeway and discover a new pond or lake to sit in awe of and just be one with the environment. I want the same for my children. I want them to know that when you have prior engagements, they are important to uphold — but at the same time, there is beauty in taking life as it comes. Imagine all the things you would have missed out on in life it hadn’t been for an unexpected detour.

Vegging out in front of the TV.

Yesterday my son watched VHS’s from my childhood on our VCR. The nostalgia was comforting to me but the generational gaps were really obvious. He wasn’t particularly interested in watching the dancing flowers in A Troll in Central Park but having him experience the things that I did as a child meant a lot to me. And I know it will impact him in the long run.

I try to make a habit of watching the shows my son watches with him. Part of that is because he knows how to work the remote now and I don’t want him watching Transformers in confusion again. But the main reason is so I can experience and observe the shows that he likes and participate in them with him. Few things light up his face like when I hear him singing songs to himself. I begin singing along, and the visible shock on his face at realizing I know the songs he enjoys is enough to make me smile the rest of the day.

Similarly, growing up, my mom watched a ton of Disney movies and sang and danced with each of them. As an adult, I have those memories of her theatrics and look forward to visiting her to recreate them. It will teach my son that it is okay to love to sing, dance and exhibit other expressions of joy. I don’t believe in saving happiness for personal time.

Making things up as we go.

I feel like one of the most common reasons people require vacations is to get away from the mundane and restrictive routines of everyday life. As a freelance journalist/writer, I never know where the day will take me. That variety makes it easy to provide an environment that changes from day to day and promotes creativity. Of course, we are in the really early stages of both parenthood and of my son’s life. In other words, a lot may change over the years. I don’t know how it will turn out in the long-run. But I have high hopes that it will be great. 

I feel that there’s a wide scale under-appreciation for simple quality time. I grew into an adult who appreciated those things because money didn’t give me a choice. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We don’t predict our children having the same financial obstacles or worries that we had growing up. But I do hope to instill the same gratitude and appreciation for the small things.