I have this deep desire to do amazing things with my kids. Things like build a Habitat for Humanity house and go pick up trash on the highway. But you can’t take preschoolers to the side of a highway. I mean, I can barely take them grocery shopping. But I try anyway, then I get frustrated and wonder why life isn’t going well.
I have these thoughts, these grand plans which hardly ever work out because right on the surface of my thought process lies a problem. It’s my definition of the word amazing.
My first reason for using that word is that I want to do memorable things, and memorable things begin with amazing plans, right?
Often the memorable things are the unplanned ones.
This summer, we planned a trip to Maine and a few weeks ago, we were there. We had to plan it, but the planning isn’t what made it memorable. It was memorable because of the times we sat on a dock and both my son’s caught their first fish. No one could have planned that. The fact that fish held on to my sons’ lures was a surprise, and a joyous one at that. On the way to Maine, we stopped in Boston for a Red Sox game and the boys got to run the bases after. We had to plan it (we had to purchase tickets in advance and make travel arrangements), but that’s not why is was memorable and amazing. It was memorable because of the way the ice cream tasted as we all scooped it from one sticky bowl. It was memorable because, while walking on the field, our kinesthetic three year-old grabbed a handful of Fenway dirt and wouldn’t let go.
Sure, planning is often important. But I’m going to argue that it’s not vital. The amazing things in life, the things that we remember, are often experienced because of unplanned wonderment (or, our giving into child-likeness). Maybe I’m arguing this because I’m not a planner. Actually, I’m a self-diagnosed un-organizer, someone who believes that everything at home has a perfect place, but where is it?! I am constantly searching for the answer. I have moments when I want to throw everything out because I feel like I can’t handle all the stuff. Then I realize that we really don’t have that much stuff and we use almost everything we do have. Sometimes I think we need to throw our organizing and planning out, instead of all our stuff.
I feel like my kids should have structure (and they sort of do). But I also know that life is made in the small moments. Like when we come home from grocery shopping and I hand each of my kids each a box of cereal to carry inside, then they do. Like when we spot a pile of ants eating a piece of apple that dropped from the breakfast table and we watch, amazed at the jobs of little insects. Like when a baby sleeps in and I get to make pancakes with the boys, actually letting them help with the measuring and stirring.
I want to do things we all enjoy. I want to teach my kids to help people, and I want to teach them the value of hard work.
But for them, sweeping under the table is hard work. Picking up that ant-infested piece of apple is building their life skills. Maybe once they master things like keeping our home clean and well, we can go out and work on building someone else’s.
Preschoolers really are quite amazing, though. It’s just they’re hard to wrangle. They’re hard to talk to. They’re hard to understand. Yet when I decide to sit down and listen, when I stop trying to plan and organize (these efforts are almost always futile anyway), my kids make a lot of sense. Often, they say the things that are on my mind anyway. They inspire me and help me. And together we build life.
That is where amazing is made.
Are you an organizer? Do you thrive on schedules? What kinds of amazing things happen when you do?
Or does planning give you a tiny heart attack and make you want to just go to the playground and hide under the slide with your kids? Do you wish you were better at organizing? Or have you found balance in your life?
Haha! Balance… Personally, I’ll leave that up to my symmetrical, orderly 5 year-old who proved his mind is made for symmetry when he made this scale all by himself the other day.