A few weeks ago, I told my 3-year old that we would play hide-and-seek after breakfast. I was feverishly trying to send off a few emails when she confronted me, hands on hips, and said: “Mo-om! Start making memories!”
Obviously parents can’t spend every moment making memories with their children, but this experience got me thinking about how much spending time together means to my little girl. Here are three ways parents can make memories with their children:
1. Make it simple. Sometimes we think memories are made through the extravagant events—attending the ballet together or going to the major league baseball game. While those can be special times together, the small, daily practices are often the things best remembered.
One mom I know recalls that her son’s favorite memory was “pajama day.” Every Tuesday, they stayed in their pajamas all day before he was school age. One day, she needed to run an errand and tried to persuade him to wear regular clothes. In the end, they both went to the bank in flannel pajama pants and hooded sweatshirts. She says it’s a day she and her son will always remember.
2. Find the silver lining. Many of my best memories are of a bad situation turned good. One time our power went out for the evening. After going for dinner in our small town’s diner, we put sleeping bags in the living room and used lanterns and flashlights for light as we played games and sang campfire songs. What could have been a downer turned out to be a fun change of pace.
Another family I know turned the end-of-the-month money crunch into a culinary event, where special dinners were made up of “leftovers” or random ingredients found in the pantry. These parents turned a potentially stressful situation into something fun.
3. Say yes. When your child comes to you with a wild, unrealistic idea, your first tendency may be to say no. But saying yes can be the most direct path to memories.
I grew up in a small town 40 minutes from the Washington coast. When I was 15, my younger brother, 13, and I concocted a “brilliant” plan. We would transform our Volkswagen van into a camper for our family of six. Our plan was to park in a campsite at the beach overnight.
We had it figured out where each family member would sleep, and my parents (bless them!) let us try it. Despite it being one of the coldest, most miserable nights of sleep in memory, I love that my parents let us try. Early the next morning, we got up and stumbled into McDonald’s for a warm breakfast. I will never forget that “vacation.”
In the end, parents don’t have to put in too much effort to make memories with their children. This morning I asked my daughter to name her favorite memories with me. “Playing with toys with you and playing hide-and-seek with you,” was her simple response. Sometimes all it takes to make a memory is spending time together.