We all fantasize about the idyllic summer with kids playing outside, eating ice cream and everyone getting along. Then reality sets in and the kids are running wild around the house. Even if the kids are at a camp or an activity all week – the energy level is still high when they are home. Often, getting everyone outside is a great solution. This can be anything from a playground, walk in a park, swimming or taking in local sporting events. A few basic supplies in the car can allow for a spontaneous outing.
Before having children, I babysat for three small kids on a small island. One of the best days we had, was when it wasn’t a “beach day” and we had been out and about. I decided to take them for a walk on the beach. They began chasing the waves in and out and of course they got soaked. Before letting them get wet, I did a quick inventory in my head and realized I had enough towels for them to be warm and get them changed. As I became a mom, I remembered how having those supplies really helped me out and have continued to keep the car packed with some basics.
I always have sunscreen, bug spray and sweatshirts in the car. I used to keep snacks and drinks until the kids were continuously raiding them. Now, I grab a few on our way out the door and keep them up front with me. There is usually some type of blanket or our beach chairs. This allows us to randomly go for a walk at a nature center or downtown and not worry about the weather too much. It also allows us to stop by the beach or a pond or a lake on our way home on a hot day.
One of our favorite moments last summer was picking up my friend and her two kids. We packed lunches and off we went. The weather was sort of cool and grey so we went for walks at free nature centers along the way. The kids had a blast and we laughed at how quiet they were at certain points of the walk. We did stop for some homemade ice cream on our way home to make the day complete. It was one of those great days that we couldn’t have planned in advance.
The key is to make it your own. Maybe it’s keeping a soccer ball or baseball in the car or a sketch book and markers. It often doesn’t take much to entertain kids when they are outside. If you don’t know much about birds or wildlife there are great apps available and most nature centers will give you some basic info. Perhaps you look at the guide and create a scavenger hunt or mini contest to see who can spot the most birds or find the most different pine cones. The key is to have fun with it and realize with a little advanced planning you can have a fun, quick family outing.
When did being average become a bad thing? It seems in every aspect of our society people are looking upon average as a lack of success. We seem to be living in a world of extremes. You are obese or do military style training, you are wealthy or poor, vegan or junk food lover – what happened to the middle? So many people talk about finding a balance, yet they don’t want to be average. Perhaps it is how we perceive the word.
The funny thing about average is that it’s constantly changing. Look at how much the average cost of living has changed. The same is true for athletics and academics. Personally, I learned to read in first grade which was average at the time. Now, the average first grader is reading chapter books and learning the building blocks of algebra. What used to be unheard of in athletics is now average thanks to different physical training and more advanced equipment. As we continue to grow as a society our average keeps changing.
As a parent, I often reflect on my own memories and experiences. Like everyone, we try to emulate parts of our childhood and maybe tweak other parts. I was a good student and took advanced classes all the way through school. I will never forget the look on my Advanced Placement Physics teacher when he saw that I would be majoring in dance. Having a name at the end of the alphabet, he had read eighteen engineering or pre-med majors and literally stopped in his tracks at dance. He questioned my reasoning for taking his class. My answer was simply that I liked math and science and it was the next logical step. As you might imagine, I never used those great physics skills.
As a dance major, I didn’t need high level math for my gen ed so I took a relatively basic math class. It was in this class that we calculated mortgage and credit card interest. Yes, I had learned these skills early on in math class, but frankly knowing how to compound interest for a mortgage doesn’t mean anything to an eighth grader. I could make the argument that the lower level math class in college was more beneficial than the AP physics in high school for the life that I lead.
Would I change taking advanced classes? Absolutely not, but I don’t think they define me as a person. I am sure they have helped with my daily reasoning skills, but my friends who didn’t take advanced classes are leading wonderful lives. Somewhere along the way, we all met at average and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My goal for my children is to set them up to succeed. For now, that means letting them try a variety of activities and seeing which ones they enjoy. Down the road they will have to make decisions about which ones they want to pursue and I am sure their individual talents will play a role. Most importantly, I hope that they lead a happy life – even if it is average!