At first, it sounds like an apples-and-oranges comparison: a mother-son trip to Disneyland, or a ten-mile bike ride in scorching heat just to get a donut. Even if you’re the world’s biggest donut fan, it doesn’t seem like an even match-up. But as my seven-year-old recently taught me, both experiences can be equally magical.
One of my biggest challenges as a mom of three is carving out special time with just one child. When I’m able to do it, it often feels rushed, or I place too many expectations on an outing and all the “bonding” that will take place and then end up feeling disappointed if things aren’t perfect. The two-day trip to Disneyland last year with my son was not one of those times; it was the kind of experience that almost felt too good to be true. As we talked, laughed, and screamed our heads off on Space Mountain, I kept thinking to myself, “Remember this—this is what the phrase ‘once in a lifetime’ means in action.”
In other words, it was a departure from our day-to-day lives, and something that took months to orchestrate. I was absolutely right in thinking I wouldn’t be able to replicate it on a regular basis, but I was wrong when I assumed I couldn’t recreate the same feelings the trip evoked.
We learn early as parents that when it comes to our kids’ happiness, it doesn’t take much. How often do babies and toddlers completely ignore a fancy store bought birthday gift in favor of the cardboard box it came in? And every family knows the best part of the weekend isn’t the soccer game/playdate/restaurant marathon, but the unplanned Sunday morning at home in PJs.
So when my son and I recently had the opportunity for an afternoon to ourselves, I let him pick his favorite activity—biking—and favorite snack—donuts—and we combined the two. No, I hadn’t factored in the outside temperature (nearly 90 degrees), and no, I hadn’t processed that it was more than five miles each way from our house to Donut King. But off we went.
He is invariably a trouper, and that day was no exception. We passed the time talking about things both silly and serious, we refueled with sugar when necessary, and we arrived home feeling both very tired and very happy. (In that way, it was a lot like our time at Disneyland.)
When my kids and I share special moments, they often ask, “When can we do it again?” I don’t think they necessarily mean trying to match the specific details of time, location and activity. Instead, I think it’s more about the experience of focused, unhurried time together. I can’t often pull off a Disneyland-level adventure, but there are countless ways to make smaller-scale events just as memorable. Every day is another opportunity for “once in a lifetime.”
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