By Vicki Little
Quick: What is your first childhood memory of your parents that makes you smile? It could be a special event like your birthday, or perhaps it’s a sweet memory from bedtime, like a song. What do you want your children to remember most about you? That the family spent more time texting during dinner than telling jokes? That you were a bit self-conscious about those extra five pounds so you sat by the pool in a towel instead of doing cannonballs with everyone? (I promise, I’m not trying to make you feel guilty!) Maybe you want them to remember that you always made them laugh because you were the absolute worst Charades player ever? If I had to leave my children tomorrow, I would want to know that their memories of me would comfort them. Fortunately, making those memories is easier than it seems. Here are 15 ways to start making memories that count.
- Have a dance party. Any fans of Grey’s Anatomy? Remember Grey and Yang dancing it out? Sometimes turning up the music and letting down your inhibitions is just what the doctor ordered. If you can’t be silly and free with your family, who can you do it with?
- Go on dates. Your sweet son will never forget the first time he took a girl out to dinner (and Mom even gave him money to pay the bill!), and your beautiful daughter will know what it feels like to be treated like a lady on a date. And all because their Mom and Dad were the first ones to share that moment.
- Have ice cream for dinner. Why not? Grab some ice cream and snuggle up to watch movies or just talk. They will remember it forever.
- Snuggle and share memories. Kids LOVE to look at pictures and videos of themselves and their family. Share what was happening in each picture. Tell them what they were like when they were younger and what things you enjoyed doing at their age.
- Have lunch at school with them. They have to eat the food and so do you! Or maybe you can surprise them with their favorite hamburger. What you eat won’t matter. What will is how happy they will be to see you during the day.
- Give them a hug and a minute after school. Most parents are pretty good about asking our kids how their day was as we put an arm around them and guide them to the car or as we sit down for dinner. But at least once a week (better if you can do it daily) stop everything you are doing, get down on their level, give them a hug and ask an open-ended question. Don’t stop having that moment until both of you feel satisfied.
- Surprise them once in awhile. On a Friday after school, announce you are going to get ice cream! Drive past the grocery store on errand day and instead take them to the park or the pool. Show up at home with pizza and a new game. Maybe even play hooky just once so that you can spend all day building forts or playing in the snow.
- Set them up for a brag moment. No one likes a bragger, but everyone loves a parent who is proud of their child. Let your child know how proud you are of him or her by telling someone about something great they did. Then encourage your child to finish the story. Something simple like, “Johnny did so well in the game last week! It was awesome…. Johnny, tell Mr. Smith about that home run of yours.”
- Put down your phone and watch. I will kick myself forever. During another child’s turn at gymnastics I checked my email, and I happened to still be reading it when my daughter finally nailed the front handspring she had been working on. The first thing she did was look to me, and then both of us realized I didn’t see it. Put the phone away.
- Watch the clouds with them. Remember when you could just look at clouds for what seemed like hours? Just daydreaming and pointing out shapes to your friends while talking about everything and nothing at the same time? When your kids look back, let them remember that it was you who was next to them daydreaming in the clouds.
- Swing with them. I did this the other day and I actually giggled because of the feeling in my stomach. Butterflies were swarming, and I felt carefree. My kids thought it was the coolest thing in the world that Mom could swing higher than them. Next week, we are going to see who can jump farther. Considering I was too scared to jump off the swing last week, I am thinking they are going to win.
- Have a family getaway tradition. It doesn’t have to be something huge like Disney World. But try something small like an annual ski or camping trip or even renting out a cabin. My friend still goes to the mountains with her whole family around New Year’s. My family rents a cabin for a couple days once a year. The memories made during those traditional getaways will be imprinted in their hearts forever.
- Have a family saying. I love you to the moon and back. We got this. When the going gets tough, the Smiths got your back…. whatever. Something special that your immediate family shares together — that is what is important.
- Have a family treasure. This could be a family saying, a memento that is passed on from generation to generation, a pose that is used for each family picture, a special wave or wink, a family motto, or a mission statement. It is something just for your immediate family, something that can be said or shared during different occasions to let everyone know you are there for each other. It’s something that gives everyone strength and encouragement. Maybe one day, your children will be tucking in their own little ones and they will pass that treasure on with a smile. That is what family traditions are made of.
What is your favorite way to make memories with your children?
Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, reading, camping, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.
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