How many times do I stress myself out trying to plan the perfect kid’s birthday party, new friend play date, summer vacation, or random weekend function? Only every day.
I want my kids to enjoy every single second of the limited time I have any influence over their young and active lives. I want to capture it all on camera and video. I want to show the world how freaking happy my children are, because I went to all the trouble to make each outing perfect. Yet sometimes the even the best laid out plans take a backseat to the unplanned, spontaneous, and simple ones.
Type A adventures usually don’t pan out the way I intended
Very rarely do those well-planned-out, Type-A adventures heed the successful results they do in my Pinterest-perfect creative mom mind. No, they usually end with a rain delay or Plan B, a kid with an upset tummy, a friend who can’t come due to whatever, or a grumpy son that does not appreciate the work I put in to making his day fabulously amazing.
I really have to ask myself (and be honest), is all the work I put into planning life about the kids, or, (and I hesitate to answer out loud) is it about me?
Embracing the simple
Just last night, we enjoyed a fabulous family dinner. After stuffing our faces, one son was ready to go home and veg out in front of the TV, Nintendo Switch, iPhone – you name it, any technical device to avoid human contact was on his agenda. The other son, younger and more outdoorsy, wanted to walk the trail by our house, which happens to host a beautiful river bed flowing gracefully through the path.
Not one to disappoint my baby yet feeling like a toad after stuffing myself with the Mexican food we had for dinner, we agreed to go to the river for a short visit. We leashed up our seven month old Cockapoo, Atlas, and jumped in the truck to take us the short distance to the trail. I noticed my son had brought flip-flops and a towel with him.
When we arrived at the trail, we walked the short distance to our favorite overgrown path, leading to the water. As soon as the water was in sight, my younger son took off running, simultaneously throwing his t-shirt off in a full sprint to the water’s edge. I then noticed he was wearing swim trunks, which somehow escaped me when we left the house.
He was knee deep in the chilly rushing water before I realized why he wanted so desperately to visit the trail. As my older son grumbled and made rude comments about his little brother, all I could do was smile. Seeing my youngest so excited, full of energy and the pure, raw joy on his face by simply splashing around in an unfortunately polluted body of water, was enough to make me happy. Because he was happy.
The unplanned adventure
The screams of ‘it’s freezing!’ coupled with the splashes of him swimming further toward the middle of the river were glorious for an unplanned summer’s eve in which we would have otherwise sat lazily on the sofa surfing unwatched Netflix shows.
We found a rock barge that appeared someone had tried to make a sort of dam with large rocks taken from the river’s edge. My son was excited to see if he could walk across the width of the river on the rocks alone, without falling. He was in the height of his adventurous, outdoorsy, little boy haven of delight. I was in the height of my happy place seeing my baby’s desire to be in Mother Nature, as God intended.
Leaving distractions behind
My fiancé, exploring the area nearby, called out to me to come see what he had found. What appeared to be an old red toy truck buried deep within the root system of an old oak tree. That truck must have been there for years, seeing as how the roots had grown around it, making it impossible to pull the toy out for a better look.
My imagination was running wild, trying to concoct a story involving a little boy, fifty some odd years in the past, playing with a toy truck while his Mother was walking along the edge of the river, collecting heart-shaped rocks. It occurred to me that the distractions were just as great in a past world as they are today. Yet, the decision to leave those distractions behind and enjoy a quaint nature escape with one’s child will never be too old-fashioned or blissfully enjoyable, despite the modern conveniences of today’s society.
Being present is the best adventure
As the sun sank lower in the sky and the river started to take on that shadowy dusky hue, I had to lull one boy out of the river, call the dog out of the woods, encourage my fiancé to stop obsessing with the antique toy truck rootbound in an old tree and watch my oldest son’s face turn from gloom to sheer joy at my proclamation: “It’s time to head home, boys!”.
Sometimes the best surprises are those that are unplanned. Those spontaneous bouts of adventure that seem to flow freely from the careless and unplanned childhood cosmos of wonder. Planning is good; but sometimes life’s unexpected blessings of surprise, enjoyment, adventure and simply being present in the moment, is even better.