I recently returned from a few days up in the mountains with my family. Now, this was not necessarily one of those laid-back retreats of quiet solitude. Picture Dan in Real Life…..then double or triple the family.
My husband’s family has a large but rustic cabin where we all gather a few times a year. As my husband puts it, “No one goes to the cabin to rest.” It’s boisterous and crazy. At our peak, I think we had 15 adults and 24 kids — 17 of those in the 8 and younger crowd. With that many people, there’s bound to be mayhem. There was stinging nettle, yards of black dirt, a few cold showers, and even a little puking. There was plenty of lost sleep. Sometimes by design, as the adults traditionally sit and talk (and laugh, and laugh) after the kids finally go to bed. And some as a natural consequence of the aforementioned brood of kiddos all “sleeping” within the same four walls. And while those descriptors would never be found on a brochure for a four-star resort, these crazy trips to the “Cabin of Chaos” are already some of my family’s favorite memories.
Life’s Memorable Scenes
It’s the very fact that things are “a little crazy” at the cabin that makes it memorable. My boys love that they’re having “sleepovers” with their older cousins, whom they idolize. That they get to do silly dances with their entertaining uncle, spot deer with their dad, and snuggle for talks with their Grammy. They love that there are all kinds of treats we rarely have at our house and girl cousins who are willing to paint their toenails the same manly shades as their Buzz Lightyear pajamas.
In truth, there is a part of me that craves more order and more structure during these cabin days, but I’ve realized that the cabin is the perfect place to create memorable scenes.
I recently read Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I thought it was a phenomenal, thought-provoking book, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone. In one section of it, Miller writes about creating memorable scenes in our lives. “When we look back on our lives, what we will remember are the crazy things we did, the times we worked harder to make a day stand out” (pp 208-209).
This quote, and the rest of the book, have caused me to think a lot about the kinds of scenes I’m creating for, and with, my children. As Miller alludes earlier in the book, if things aren’t memorable, it’s as though they didn’t happen at all. I want my children to know their childhood happened.
Happy Birthday to You
Many of us have wonderful birthday traditions in our homes. I remember my dad picking me up from elementary school for lunch on my birthdays – specifically the year they brought out a pizza with a birthday candle in one of the olives at Ferdinand’s Pizzeria. It was a triple crown tradition: one-on-one with my dad, getting out of school, and eating in a restaurant!
My friend created a similar memory, eating a birthday breakfast with her son in his bed….on the top bunk. Now THAT doesn’t happen every day!
Birthday traditions are fantastic. But why save them all for birthdays? Random special days make them stand out even more!
The Magic of the Place
Creating a memorable scene can be almost literally like designing a set; creating areas that are different and inviting. I know every teacher in my elementary school must have had a reading area, but I only remember two: Mr. Clark’s pillow-stuffed bath tub, and Miss Greg’s indoor treehouse. They were different, and every kid wanted to read in those rooms! Think of your rooms and what you want your children to do there. How have you designed your space to invite special moments?
You Can Plan On It
Creating memorable scenes is not to say that every moment has to be wild and crazy. In fact, it’s the baseline of “normalcy” that allows for the “spectacular”. The more intentional and organized you normally are, the more memorable those “spontaneous” moments become. I use quotation marks around spontaneous because we, as adults, can take great care in planning these moments of whimsy.
Because of its similarity to a scene in the book, as I read, I thought about the time I jumped into the pool with my clothes on at the end of my boys’ swim lessons. They certainly remember that “crazy” moment. I remember that I planned at least a day ahead, and was sure to keep my workout clothes on so that my crazy moment of “spontaneity” would be a bit less soggy. You can be “Type A” and still be “crazy”. Start within your comfort zone and then work your way out.
What do you do— or what could you do— to create memorable scenes for the children you love and teach?
Top photo by Henry Barker.
Kara Fleck says
Oh, what a beautiful post! very timely for me as we head to our family reunion in a few weeks …
Here’s to soggy moments and being spontaneous (even planning to be so!) 🙂
And, thanks for the book recommendation, too …
Thank you so much, Kara! Enjoy your reunion – and the book!
Thanks for this great post! Will have to get the book you mentioned, as it sounds like a great read. So true about making memories with your children…I try to reflect upon this each week, about maybe some of the memories that my sons will have of their childhood that they will keep with them into adulthood. I also reflect upon my own childhood and think about what stands out and sometimes, it is the little things that end up being the standouts.
Glad that you had a nice time with your family at the cabin.
We did something like that a few years ago, with 11 adults and 7 children sharing one cabin…and that seemed like a big group, with lots of noise and chaos, but it was a fun time.
It is hard sometimes to go with the flow when you are used to having more of a routine, though, isn’t it?
Have a nice rest of your day today,
Thanks for your comment, Colleen. And I loved that you mentioned that it’s often the little things that count. A friend of mine read a report on Disneyland vacations and the research showed that most children, when interviewed about their trip, mentioned the pool at the hotel as being their favorite part. I’ve had similar experiences with my own boys– having a big special day and then finding their favorite part was something simple. We often work too hard, when we just need to be more intentional about those simple things.
Abby @ abby & her boys says
Wow. What a great post. I have been worried that my oldest will start school, and they’ll ask him what he did this summer and he will say “nothing.” Making memories is so important to me! You have some really beautiful sentences here. If you liked Donald Miller’s book, I would encourage you to check out Shauna Niequist. Her latest book, Bittersweet, is even better than her first. She speaks a lot about squeezing the beauty out of every moment.
Thanks for the book suggestion! I’ll have to put that one on my list!
I run a youth group and in the past we have gone tenting in June for a year end event. Since my other chaperone couldn’t do an over night trip this year, I decided instead that we would camp out overnight in the loft of an 100 year old barn. We had a campfire, the kids played kick the can, then we set up a projector and watched a movie on a sheet on the wall, curled up in our sleeping bags. Then everyone rolled into their tents and went to sleep. It was really fun and memorable for everyone, and only 10 min. out of town instead of 2 hrs.
What a wonderful outing! And a great example of focusing on their experience rather than on our expectations. Thanks for sharing!
Joseph Nally says
My girls already think their dad (me) is crazy. But, what the heck, why not destroy any last remaining thought that I might be sane!
No really, loved it.
Thanks, Joseph! Let’s hear it for crazy dads! I love how crazy my dad is — especially since he intimidates most people. He’s got a football player’s build and he’s a serious judge, but most of my childhood memories of him are just silly! You have lucky girls!
You can be “Type A” and still be “crazy”.
Thanks goodness or there’d be no “spontaneity in the household. Some of my best childhood memories involve our cabin and my cousins. Crazy, yes. But also a blast.