“I want to ride a snowmobile,” he said to me on the phone one day before Christmas. “It’s one of the things I’ve had on my bucket list and I’m afraid if I don’t do it now I’ll never get the chance.” My dad has always been the one who creates opportunities for his family to have adventures together. Kayaking, riding ATV’s in the desert, horseback riding, going off the beaten path (like WAY off the beaten path); these are the things that give him joy especially when he gets to experience it with his favorite people.
When my son was just a little boy, he didn’t simply enjoy trains. He was completely obsessed with them. If we happened to be driving near one he would rattle off the names of each and every car he saw. “Tank car, tank car, hopper car, gondola car, boxcar, boxcar, boxcar, engine.” I spent most of my days down on the floor of our family room helping him construct elaborate tracks for his wooden trains and still feel proud to this day of my ability to figure out how to make everything connect without any breaks in the tracks. Heaven forbid Thomas the Tank Engine should fall off into the abyss!
Never were the trains more magical to all of us than at Christmastime. So, the year that he was 3 1/2, I planned a very special day for my very special train-loving boy. I spent a little bit of time researching and discovered that all throughout our downtown there were train displays set up in various shops. And I found out that in the rotunda of our capitol building the pièce de résistance was a model train which wound its way through a replica of our city.
The chosen day dawned and I informed my son that we were going on a Christmas adventure. At one stop, a kind store clerk moved furniture out of the way so that he could get right up close to the train in the window. At the post office, an employee knew a fellow train-lover when he saw one and, in between helping customers, made the train which wound its way above our heads go back and forth over and over again. Everywhere we went, people saw the wonder in the eyes of that three year old boy and happily added to his excitement. After a quick stop for a sugary treat, we arrived at our final destination. As we entered the two-story, marble covered rotunda of the capitol building with it’s enormous Christmas trees and glittering lights, my son’s eyes locked onto the train display front and center. He patiently waited his turn to push the button to make the train go around the snow-covered village and I fought back tears as I vowed to never forget that moment.
Now, twelve years later, I ask my fifteen year old if he remembers that day. “Vaguely”, he says, much to my chagrin. And I realize why I instinctively knew that I needed to pause and really soak it all up. Because, here we are in the throes of the tween and teen years in our household and I’m pretty sure no one would be jumping up and down with excitement over a day spent looking for train sets around town.
So, what do we do now? How do we make the holiday season special for our older kids when the magic and wonder of the younger years is gone?
Well, I asked this exact question on Facebook recently and received some pretty amazing responses! So I decided to put them all together in one spot and share them with you here.
- Keep as many of the old traditions alive as possible ~ They may roll their eyes when you suggest watching ‘The Polar Express’ or show about the same attention to detail in decorating the tree as they did when they were toddlers (some of them still want to put ALL of the ornaments on one branch!) but I promise you that, deep down in their hearts, your teens and young adults still appreciate your family traditions. With so much change happening in their lives, these moments provide them with a sense of continuity and a reminder that some things will never change.
- Go on a Christmas Scavenger Hunt ~ Divide into teams and head out on a scavenger hunt which will take you around town to various landmarks. Create clues based on song lyrics and require each team to sing the song once they’ve solved the clue and video it for proof. Meet back up at a coffee shop or bakery and watch the videos together!
- Have a Gingerbread House Competition ~ Encourage your teens/young adults to invite some friends to your home and give each of them a gingerbread house kit. Put on music, provide the hot cocoa/coffee and watch the creativity unfold.
- Volunteer Together ~ This is the perfect opportunity to let the older kids in your life do some research and determine where they would like to offer their time and resources to those in need. Not only will you be helping others, but the very act of serving together will be a bonding experience for you as a family and create memories to last a lifetime.
- Go Christmas Light Hunting ~ Take the typical ‘driving around in the car looking at lights’ tradition up a notch by turning it into a game. Print or write out little cards with the words “thank you for lighting the town” and take them with you as you drive through the neighborhoods. Each person gets to pick out their favorite houses, run up and ring the doorbell and leave the card to surprise the homeowner with the sweet note of praise.
- Have an Amaryllis Bulb Race ~ Each person gets their own potted amaryllis bulb with their name on it and then the race is on to see who’s flower is the tallest on Christmas Day. The best part of this idea is that not only is there some friendly competition but you’ll be adding beauty to your home too.
- Create a Family Ornament at a Ceramic Store ~ Now that you’re past the days where the very idea of going into a ceramic store with your kids made you break into a cold sweat you seize this opportunity as parents of older kids to get creative together. Pick out an ornament that represents your family and let each person take part in putting their own stamp on it. Write your names and the date on the back and try not to cry as you hang it on the tree each year.
- Work on a Challenging Puzzle ~ Breaks from school and work are all well and good until everyone starts getting a bit restless and the cabin fever sets in. This is when a large puzzle can become your saving grace! Pick a spot in your home where you can leave the puzzle pieces out (coffee tables are great for this!) and just watch as everyone gravitates to it.
- Encourage Anonymous Giving ~ While volunteering together gives you the opportunity to actually see how you are impacting others, anonymous giving builds character in an entirely different way. Not getting credit for the act is a good reminder that we serve and give not because we want credit for it but because the greatest reward is simply knowing we’ve been able to help someone and holding that feeling in our hearts.
- Pass the Baking/Cooking Baton ~ Now is the perfect time to give yourself a break during this busyness of the season and let your teens/young adults plan meals and tackle some of the holiday baking. Encourage them to look up recipes, do the shopping and cook/bake for the family. Not only does this help prepare them for life outside of your home but it gives you a much-needed rest. That’s a win/win for sure!
Every stage of parenting has it’s really amazing parts and it’s really hard parts. I freely admit to grieving a bit over the fact that my kids have gotten older and the days of playing with train tracks and being invited to imaginary tea parties are long gone. But, one thing I’ve realized is that we need to embrace each new stage and that there is still so much fun to be had! In fact, these years ahead of us with teens and young adults leaves so much more room to experience the magic and wonder of the season in brand new ways. We can stay up later, drink coffee together, watch non-cartoon movies and get to know each other as individuals and build a relationship that goes beyond just parent/child.
It’s all about choosing to be intentional and creating an environment where they know they can always just be themselves and that their friends are always welcome.
So, what would YOU add to this list? I’d love to hear some of the ways that you have celebrated the holiday season with your teens or young adults.
And I want to say a BIG thank you to all of my fellow mamas who helped me come up with this list of fantastic and fun ideas!
Much love to you all,
It wasn’t too long ago that I was publicly bemoaning the fact that May is the busiest month of the year. And I know I’m not alone in thinking this. All over social media, my fellow moms of school-aged children were commiserating with each other and offering solidarity as we all wondered why on earth so much is crammed into one single, solitary month.
But, as I now suddenly find myself in the month of June, I’m looking back on the insanity of the previous month and realizing that perhaps it served a greater purpose.
Because, just as we are entering a new season of the year, I am entering a new season of motherhood.
Last week, my youngest child completed her elementary school education. That means, we are officially no longer apart of the ‘little kid’ community.
Once upon a time there was a mother and her tween daughter who set off on a fun adventure together during spring break to explore a beautiful city and enjoy some wonderful bonding time. The mother had carefully planned this trip, even calling the hotel the morning they were due to arrive and confirming their reservation. She was so excited to stay in this historic downtown hotel and knew it would be a lovely surprise for her daughter.
Fifteen minutes away from their destination, as they navigated the busy, unfamiliar freeway system with mom carefully listening to the directions being called out on her phone, suddenly that phone rang and the number for the hotel appeared.
“Hi! This is the Fairmont hotel in Seattle and we are calling to let you know that we have an unexpected event happening here that is causing us to have to move your reservation to another hotel. The secret service has informed us that they need any remaining rooms we have available. I can’t tell you why but I can tell you that we’ve booked you a lovely room at another downtown hotel.”
At first, the mother thought this must be some kind of a joke. The secret service? Really? She tried to get more information from the hotel representative but was basically given the “if we tell you we’ll have to kill you” treatment.
So, bizarre as it all seemed, mother and daughter had no choice but to embrace the change in plans and be redirected to another, less historic but equally lovely, hotel.
The daughter seemed a little bit concerned. How was this all going to work out? Would her mother know how to get to the new hotel? Would they really have a room there? Did her mother know how to navigate around this huge city?
And, as her mother easily found the hotel, parked the car, seamlessly handled the transition of being unexpectedly moved from one hotel to another and even got them a room upgrade(!), the daughter began visibly relaxing.
Upon entering their hotel room, marveling at the amazing view of the city and the water and then stretching out on the comfy beds, the daughter said that she had been a little bit worried about how it was all going to work out. The mother was quick to remind the daughter that this is just part of the adventure of traveling! And that, her mother traveled all over the United States on her own and managed just fine.
But, in that moment it dawned on the mother that she and her daughter had never really experienced a trip like this just the two of them. Most of the time, they went as a whole family and on those trips, the father took the lead (driving, navigating, negotiating) while the mother did a lot more of the ‘behind the scenes’ (making reservations, packing, stopping the mail).
The mother realized something. This was more than simply a fun mother/daughter vacation.
This was an opportunity.
Here was a chance to not just have a really great time adventuring with her daughter, but to show her how to adventure with CONFIDENCE.
How to navigate her way through an unfamiliar city.
How to ask questions of the locals.
How to open your heart and mind to new experiences.
And how to find the best views.
The mother wanted to show the daughter that traveling, like life, sometimes means making adjustments. It means that even though you should plan and prepare, you should also expect the unexpected.
Because, you just never know when the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is going to bump you from your hotel. 😉
Thanks for meeting this mother and daughter at the fence today,
A couple of weeks before Christmas, my husband and I were able to meet for lunch while the kids were at school. This is one of my favorite things about this stage of parenting. Day-dates are the best!
As we ate yummy food at our favorite restaurant, we began talking about our plans for 2018. We have several home related projects we want to complete and prioritizing those to match our budget involves some strategy. And, as we looked towards the future, it struck us both that in a little over 4 years our oldest child will be graduating from high school. I’m pretty sure when our waitress came over to check on us she was wondering why this cheerful, happy couple was suddenly sitting there looking pained.
A recent study was released that revealed the most lonely stage of parenting. And the results are probably shocking to everyone besides those who are actually in that stage. Are you ready to know which one it is? Well, you might be surprised to know that moms who are raising middle schoolers are considered among the loneliest of any stage of motherhood. Yep. More than when they are babies and even more than when they leave the nest.
Happy almost weekend friends! We are wrapping up summer break with a wonderful family vacation and that means we’ve called on one of our very gifted friends to help us out this week by sharing some much-needed words of encouragement that we know will resonate with everyone on some level. Please help us welcome Katie Reid to the picket fence!
I am an idealist. That’s a fancy way of saying I have unrealistic expectations.
Happy Friday friends! We are so thrilled to have Kristin Funstun here with us today! She is an incredible writer and speaker and she’s bringing us some really beautiful words of encouragement that will resonate with all of us on one level or another.
So help us welcome Kristin to the picket fence!
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)
Yes. This. Everything about the above verse makes me want to type in all the praise hand emojis. Because quiet, alone, unseen, rewards, secret … all these words tug at my busy-mom-of-three emotions.
Happy Friday sweet friends! We are so thrilled to have our friend Morgan from Morganize with Me here with us today sharing with us some wonderful insights about how much our attitudes towards being organized impacts our homes and families. So help us now to welcome Morgan!
I am honored to be here today, sharing from my heart. Thank you ladies!
As a semi-type A, first-born, and very detail oriented person, I regularly get the sense that others think I have every single part of my home flowing along in perfect harmony. That my life is meticulously organized and free of chaos. Um, no.
Organization requires many parts working together, and I don’t know about you, but in my home we’re all usually going in too many different, and often opposing, directions.
Sure, some days we are all clicking along, but MOST days not so much.
The wind was whipping around us as we were spinning and twirling through the yard.
Arms spread out, we laughed as dizziness set in before we tumbled into the lawn chair together.
She wrapped her little arms around my neck, snuggled in tight and said,
“Don’t let me blow away mommy!”
It was one of those moments in life where you wish you could stop time. You long for a way to bottle it up so you won’t ever forget how soft her skin feels against yours. How her little fingers played with your hair as we sat quietly together.
And my heart began to ache.