For Family Outings, Getting There is Secondary
Parenting truth: Kids under the age of 5 have no interest in efficiency toward the goal. It’s all about enjoying the process.
We thought it would be nice to go get ice cream as a family.
My thoughts for it go like this:
1. Go get ice cream.
2. Eat ice cream.
3. Come home and put kids to bed on time.
My kids have no such plans.
I don’t know if it’s our family or if other families go through this too, but those normal things that most families do together like eating dinner, going to get ice cream, or even getting to church on time require a hilarious amount of effort.
When my kids go somewhere, the process of “going” is as much fun as the “getting there.” It’s an all-encompassing event.
We have costume changes, snacks, and backpack assembling.
“I need my shiny shoes!” she cries, but the shoes are lost.
“Go look for your shoes,” I tell her. She returns later with no shoes and she’s wearing fewer clothes than before.
She is unintentionally working against me.
I check the time. How does this take so long?
(Do you remember when if you wanted to go to the store you could just pick up your keys and walk out the door without the need for so much strategizing?)
It’s taken so long to get ready to go get a snack that the littlest one needs another snack before we go. And a last-minute diaper change. And what’s on his shirt?
Out the door we go, finally!
“Wait, I forgot my puppy!” Back inside again.
Walking down the sidewalk: “Ooh, look, a feather!”
Her world is pine cones and sprinkles and no need to rush. My world is tasks and responsibilities and trying to remember to let her savor the delight in not having to hurry for as long as she possibly can.
We get there with only a couple of “hurry-ups.” We have a backpack of toys with us. She’s wearing a turquoise tutu and her favorite red shiny shoes. The total time to get ready to go eat ice cream: seventy minutes, not counting the bus ride and walk. Time to eat ice cream: fifteen minutes, all worth it.
On the way home she sighs, “Ice cream is my favorite.” and we declare this outing a success.
When it seems that doing something together as a family is more effort than it should be, I remember the price to give her her most favorite thing in the world is only one evening of time and less than $2. How much longer will it be this easy?