Why I Didn’t Create an Over-the-Top Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day yesterday was low key at my house. My husband cooked an amazing meal for me on Sunday. I gave him chocolate and each of my girls a little Valentine’s candy on the 14th.

Over-the-top Valentines Compared to the heart-themed-breakfast, love-notes-in-lunch-boxes fusses many of my fellow moms made, it doesn’t sound much like a bucket list celebration, does it?

There’s a reason for that.

Over-the-top celebrations aren’t sustainable for me. And I would argue they aren’t healthy or sustainable for most. They raise the bar and set expectations such that we’re often scrambling to find ways to make the next event memorable, to wow our kids or spouse or friends or social media followers with our creativity and pizzazz, to outdo ourselves. And in the process we cheapen everyday life and rob our kids of anticipation.

Going big has become such a way of life in our culture that I suspect we’re losing the ability to appreciate the ordinary. Our sense of perspective has been skewed by this desire for every milestone or occasion to be bright and amazing. When Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day and Easter share the same level of riotous hype in a household, how do kids learn which of those days is most significant?

When teenage girls become accustomed to up-do’s and manicures and professional makeup for homecoming dances, preceded by an elaborate “ask” by their date, then prom must include limousines and multi-hundred-dollar dresses and fancy “after parties.” But what’s left for the day they become engaged? And how can they help but expect the type of wedding that requires an exorbitant price tag when a mere high school dance merited so many frivolous expenses?

We have become so focused on giving our kids everything now, that we are leaving nothing for later. What will your children’s bucket lists look like when they reach their 20s and their 30s? When they are your age, what will they be hoping to do? How will they not be bored in retirement having done it all already?

More importantly, what do your kids bucket lists look like right now? In the wake of the hype and the busyness and the constant need to go big and achieve much, I’m hearing from kids how they just want a day to hang out at home and do nothing. They want a break from it all. Are you brave enough to give it to them? Or do you fear making them feel “left out” by not giving them every over-the-top experience you think their peers are getting?

Break the cycle. Dare to be the parent who invites their kids to enjoy the ordinary and leaves some bucket list experiences for the future. I know a lot of other moms who would appreciate it. And I’m pretty sure in the long run, your kids will too.


1603UdemyDisct Feeling exhausted from trying to match the over-the-top expectations prevalent among parents? Are you still eager to give your kids meaningful experiences that bring your family closer? I can teach you how. Check out my book Family Bucket Lists, or take my online course, Bonding Through Bucket Lists.

The Appeal of ‘Just Once’

The Appeal of Just OnceA handful of years ago, when my daughters were preschool- and elementary-aged, I surprised them with a Valentine’s Tea. I set out my china, made tiny cucumber sandwiches cut in the shape of hearts, baked cookies, and brewed up some hot tea. When they arrived home at the end of the school day, instead of after school snacks, we sat in the living room and enjoyed afternoon tea.

They drank daintily, holding pinkies high in the air, sipping gingerly. They munched on sandwiches and chattered about their school day, being careful to place their teacups on saucers and wiped at their mouths with the cloth napkins I’d set out.

It didn’t take a lot for me to put on this special holiday tea for them. A bit of baking and sandwich making. It was a pure delight to me, something I’d been wanting to do with my girls since the first of them was born. And the effect was marvelous. They ate it up, literally and figuratively. I’d loved them by spoiling them with something different that Valentine’s Day.

We haven’t had a Valentine’s Tea since then. My girls still talk about it – it is probably one of their most memorable Valentine’s celebrations. And that actually is the point of it. It’s memorable because it happened just once. I had wanted to do it for them. I did it. We enjoyed it. And now it is a fond memory.

As Valentine’s Day approaches this year, I see where more moms could use a “just once” bucket list approach to treating their kids to something special. Because many of us get worked up about creating a great experience that we will repeat year after year. Which makes no Valentine’s celebration memorable. And it wears us out.

Many of us get worked up about creating a great experience that we will repeat year after year. Which makes no Valentine’s memorable. – Tweet This

So as you contemplate what you will do to love on your children this February 14th, consider this: what would you do if it was only “just once”? Is there a special way of celebrating you have wanted to do for a while, but haven’t (like my Valentine’s Tea)? Then ask yourself whether this is the year for it or not. Recognize that your children do not know about all the wonderful ideas you have that you may not execute. If you don’t have any “just once” Valentine ideas, then give yourself a break. Going overboard does not make you any more loving, nor will your children feel any less loved if you do not.

And if last year you made a terrific display of affection for your kids, release yourself from the need for a repeat performance. Let it stand on its own and relish the memory. Relax and stop beating yourself up over what you don’t do. Show yourself some love this Valentine’s. Even if it’s just once.

Ever done something amazing for your kids one time, never to repeat it? Or have you been wanting to do something special for them “just once,” but haven’t yet? Share your story in the comments.



Don’t Give Up On Your Dreams

Imagine helping trim the trees at the White House. Did you know that you can? The White House boasts 62 trees and enlists about 100 volunteers – florists, interior designers and regular folks – to put on the lights and ornaments. The First Lady decides the theme and then the team of volunteers goes to work.

Don't Give Up On Your DreamsOne of this year’s volunteers hails from a suburb near our little city. Mary Mazzeffi, a long-time floral arranger, applied to be a volunteer for multiple years before finally being selected. The experience marked a bucket list achievement for her! She even had the opportunity to trim a special three-foot tree to adorn the President’s elevator. Talk about once-in-a-lifetime opportunities!

What I want you to notice about Mary’s story though, is this: it didn’t just happen to her. She made it happen by her persistence and determination. She estimates it took six or seven tries before she made the cut to volunteer. But she kept at it and lived her dream of decorating the White House.

I talk a lot about the bucket list goals we live out as a family. But there are also a lot of disappointments behind the scenes here. My kids audition and don’t make the cut. They apply for special programs and recognitions, only to be turned down. We make plans to attend special events or visit our hoped-for destinations, only to have the plans fall through. And me? I’m a writer who often submits essays and articles to publications, which means I also receive rejections.

Expect the disappointments, but don’t dwell on them. Look for what you can learn from them and then move on. Keep the goal on your bucket list and vow to continue trying. Because ultimately, I think the missed tries make the final achievement more meaningful. Just last week I heard this affirmed by the director of a popular local high school music show.  About those who don’t make the cast on their first attempt, he remarked, “many students who audition in subsequent years grow to be superb members of the cast – often making much more growth in the long run than students who do get in on their first try.”

Think of Mary Mazzeffi the next time your efforts at reaching a goal fall short. Remember: don’t give up on your dreams. After all, you could end up decorating a tree for the President’s elevator.

 

My Udemy course, Build Stronger Bonds Writing Family Bucket Lists, helps you work with your kids to write the bucket lists that help them push past Build Stronger Bonds Writing Family Bucket Listsdisappointment to reach their goals. You’ll also bring your family closer, create more camaraderie & make quality memories, using your bucket lists as a springboard. Plus, take 50% off the registration price through 12/31/15 using the code BUCKETLISTNOW.

Bucket List Life Dare: Try a New Holiday Activity

December 2015 Bucket List Life DareCutting down your own Christmas tree. Seeing a live performance of the Nutcracker Ballet. Learning to make that special holiday recipe of your grandmother’s. Stealing the children from their beds to take them out for a late night car ride to look at the holiday lights while drinking hot cocoa.

This time of year is jam-packed with traditions and classic observances. Some of them are so essential to our experience of the season, that we can’t do without them. In our house, it’s a given that we will drink eggnog while decorating the Christmas Tree and listening to holiday tunes on the day after Thanksgiving. That combination marks the start of the season for us every year. But there are some Christmas experiences that don’t fit into our annual rituals – ones we’ve never had, yet still hope to one day. I imagine you could say the same too. If you think about it, such activities make perfect additions to a family bucket list.

In that vein, this month’s Bucket List Life Dare is to find a way to experience a new holiday activity – hopefully one that you have been wanting to experience (or share with someone else) for a while. It’s already a busy time of year, but enjoying something out-of-the-ordinary is a great way to make it special and memorable.

What’s fun about this dare for my family is that we have so many options to choose from. Here is a sampling: My eldest daughter wants to go to the Christkindlmarket in Chicago. I have always wanted to dine at The Walnut Room at Marshall Fields Macy’s under the 45-foot Great Tree.  And my husband and I would enjoy taking our kids to a holiday performance (Nutcracker, Rockettes or a Broadway holiday musical).

Treat yourself and your family to a holiday adventure by taking this month’s dare. What holiday experience is on your bucket list?

My Udemy course, Build Stronger Bonds Writing Family Bucket Lists, helps you create more opportunities like this for your family where you bring members closer, create more camaraderie & make quality memories. And not just at the holidays, but throughout the year.

Simplicity: What Is Your One Thing?

What is your one thing? The goal, experience, skill or what have you that you would love to throw yourself into accomplishing? Or the theme around which you could imagine centering your pursuits?

Nov18SimplicityI ask this because one of the dangers we all face in writing our bucket lists is getting so bogged down in experiencing as much as we can – and in the case of our family bucket lists, exposing our kids to as many experiences as we can – that we miss out on the underlying goal: to live life. To enjoy being alive and being ourselves as deeply and freely as possible. And to enjoy those we walk through life with as deeply and freely as we can.

Today I’m sharing with you a video I’ve wanted to share for a while. What I love about Matt Bray’s 100 Places of Dance (beyond the fact that at least half of those places are right here in our fair city of Naperville) is that he chose to focus on one thing – his crazy cool dance. And he simply inserted it into a bunch of locations. Take a look:

Now Matt has a lot of other things on his bucket list that he is accomplishing and documenting through his Project One Life, but this video and his previous 100 Days of Dance have probably gotten him the most attention. And I think it comes down to that focus. Because there is an excellence and an appeal in the simplicity of what he does. One dance. 100 places.

As we approach the time of year that can cause us the most stress because of all the directions we end up being pulled, I think it’s a good time to stop and think about that one thing. Even if it is just to ask yourself, “what is my one thing I want for myself or my family for the holiday season this year?” And once you’ve tried it with your holiday plans, ask it about other aspects of your life and your bucket list and your family’s bucket list from time to time. I think you’ll find depth, joy and peace in the simplicity.

I can’t wait to try it myself.

 

Photo credit: Bad Pyrmont, Deutschland by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash via CC License