Growing into an adult I realized that it was the experiences I remembered from my childhood. I remember some of the material aspects of my childhood, but the experiences outweigh that by far. I remember racing go-karts, going to the park with my brothers and Mom, I remember going on trips with my grandparents. These were some of the experiences that I can vividly recall.
What I don’t remember is the specific brand of clothing I wore when I was in kindergarten. I don’t remember the kind of shoes I had on. I don’t remember what kind of car my Mom drove at that time, though I do remember a few of our cars from childhood, and it was the experiences in those cars that I remember. I don’t remember what was considered cool at the time for my Mom to wear. I didn’t know what fashion was. I don’t remember if the restaurants we ate at were the popular spots or not. I don’t even remember too many of the toys I had, though I do remember some of them and they were the toys that I could be creative with.
As a parent, I have found that it is all too easy to bury my kids in toys and stuff to keep them busy. Sports are no longer leisure activities, they consume lives. People are all too ready to commit themselves and their kids to all the things. While there is nothing wrong with toys and sports, it has never been easier to take it to a level that could be considered an unhealthy obsession. That obsession is usually more about the parent than it is the child.
With that said, it was obvious to me that the experiences I have had in life were more important to me than the things. I know that there is nothing wrong with acquiring things. I have more things than I need. I could do with fewer things. However, I have always wanted to make sure that things don’t get in the way of making time for experiences.
Through observation, I have found that many people do not share my take. They seem to be working extremely hard during the childhood years of their children where experiences matter most. They are focused on the future while at the same time wasting the now. The now is most important to me because if I focus on the now, the future will work itself out.
I will not trade a few extra dollars for the childhood of my children. There is no value in that. I can make extra dollars later. At the same time, I do recognize that I want to have some level of achievement of my own during the younger years of my children. I look at every opportunity and say no to what would not fit into the lifestyle I am trying to have for my family.
We recently visited The Color Factory in San Francisco. This popup museum featured color specific rooms with different experiences in each room. It was a lot of fun and my kids loved it. We spent about almost two hours going through each color room playing, laughing, and taking a few photos. It was an experience my kids will remember. After that, we had dinner and stayed at a hotel in Sausalito, which is just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. My wife and I had stayed there before so we knew it would be a fun experience for the kids as well.
It was a challenge to get tickets to The Color Factory. It was very popular and only sold a certain amount of tickets to assure it was not overcrowded. It was like trying to get an iPhone on launch day. I was waiting on my computer with the order page open just waiting for the moment. I almost missed it they sold so fast.
In 2015, we took a road trip up the coast of the US stopping off at different destinations every day. It took us a little over a week to make it up to Seattle Washington. We stayed in hotels each night at a different location and visited interesting spots along the way. Some of the highlights included Fern Canyon off the coast of Northern California, a Dinosaur Attraction in Oregon, and several other roadside attractions that will forever be fun memories to remember with my kids. I also filmed our experiences which we revisit to keep those memories fresh.
I don’t do everything right and sometimes can’t. I have had to miss a few of my kids’ school things, though I have made the majority of them. I occasionally have to travel for work. I often leave for work before they leave for school. I recognize that we can’t be perfect and attend everything, but we can try.
The purpose of this post is to remind parents that the childhood their children experience is important. We all want to provide our children with a better life than we had but please don’t put it off. I often hear people say that once they make a certain amount of money that they will be able to vacation more and spend more time with their kids. The problem is the pursuit never ends and before you know it, your kids are grown up and don’t want to spend time with you. Your kids will grow up recognizing that you traded time with them for money, or something else. I want a healthy balance there. I want my kids to see that I work hard but that I also build into my work-life enough time to spend experiencing life with them whether that be playing in the front yard or taking them to The Color Factory. My kids need to know that I prioritized them in my life. People complain about the selfishness of the Millennial Generation, but those kids had to learn from someone.
Prioritize time with your children. Give them your attention, especially if both parents in the household work. Give them experiences over toys. Rather than new iPads for Christmas, take the family on a trip. Invest in your children, rather than investing in distractions so you can keep your kids busy.
I know I have written before on spending time with kids, but it’s so important. There is enough time in the day for our kids and a healthy level of personal achievement. If you are not able to find that, I would suggest you take a look at what is in your life and how you could revise it.