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.

July 2016 Bucket List Life Dare: A Day of Freedom

July 2016 Bucket List Life DareWhat would you do with a whole day free: nothing on the calendar and no obligations to fulfill? It’s worth thinking about because the concept of freedom alone can yield interesting bucket list goals. A whole 24 hours to yourself with the freedom from other’s expectations. A wide open day of freedom in the location of your choosing to explore or relax. A day free from screens, phones, social media, interruptions, distractions.

Freedom, expressed in the way that we most need or prefer, can take on a variety of forms. But how often do we seize on it and embrace it in any form? More often than not conversations with people I know will gravitate toward how busy they are and how many obligations they have to fulfill. Freedom, and the release it provides, rarely factors into daily life – at least not here in the U.S. Which if anything, is ironic.

That’s why I chose this Bucket List Life Dare for July. I want us to take advantage of the freedom we should be able to experience in this great country of ours in ways that improve our lives. Too often I see freedom only being exercised to trumpet beliefs (freedom of expression). But freedom is about so much more than that.

So here’s your bucket list life dare for this coming month: put a big “X” through one day on your calendar this month and keep it free from planned activities. Enjoy that day of freedom however you and your family wish.

Our family has already booked a few days of camping in Michigan for later in July. It’s an annual trip for us that does a pretty good job of taking us away from obligations and giving us freedom. But to be more intentional about it, I’m going to encourage my family to make one of our days about everyone getting to choose one expression of freedom – go to the beach or not go to the beach. Get up early or sleep late. Eat healthy food or not. Or whatever it is they come up with.

How about you? What would a day of freedom look like for you? Can you claim a day of freedom on your calendar this month?


Sharing Mother’s Day – An Obligation or Celebration?

'078/366: Mother's Day' photo (c) 2012, Mikey - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

For moms, Mother’s Day can be laden with expectation. We expect to be pampered and coddled – breakfast in bed, a trip to the spa, dinner at a fancy restaurant. But what we don’t expect is to be lost in all the craziness of family obligations. Yet for some women with family living nearby (or within a few hours’ drive), or for moms with blended families, Mother’s Day can become anything but a day of pampering.

If this is you and you’re already dreading the second Sunday in May, let me give you a few tips that can help you survive (and possibly find celebration):

•    Recognize your expectations. If every year your family follows the same disappointing script, recognize what’s not working about it for you. If you’re hoping for breakfast in bed, but that never happens because your mother-in-law insists on a family brunch, note what it is that you miss. Maybe it’s sleeping in. Or maybe it’s alone time snuggled in bed with your kids. Take time to parse out the underlying needs or emotions.
•    Share your desires. Perhaps your husband would be willing to initiate changes on your behalf but he doesn’t know what you want. Tell him. Give him the opportunity to please you.
•    Reframe your concept of Mother’s Day. Maybe your family won’t budge. Sometimes tradition is tradition and there’s no changing. Instead of thinking of what you wish Mother’s Day would be, accept it for what it is – a day to honor the generation of mothers ahead of you, or a day for your stepkids to honor their mom.
•    Grieve the loss. If you know you’ll never get the Mother’s Day you crave, acknowledge your sadness. Mourn for what you’re missing. Mourn and then move on.
•    Start your own tradition. So Mother’s Day isn’t about you. How about asking your husband and children to honor you on a different day. Call it “Mom’s Day” and tell them how you’d like to celebrate. Then put that day on the calendar. Ask your kids to intentionally hold back any gifts or celebration for you on the second Sunday in May so that special your day gets it all.

Observing special days doesn’t always happen perfectly. But taking the opportunity in advance to decide how we’re going to view the day can go a long way to improving our experience. If you’re a mom faced with recognizing someone else’s Mother’s Day instead of your own, think about what you’ll do to make this year different. You may find the result to be something worth celebrating!


Treasure and Valentine’s Day

The other day one of my daughters asked me what my husband and I would be doing for Valentine’s Day. I gave her a blank look. Frankly I hadn’t thought about it yet. And even more frankly, we haven’t ever really made a big

Photo credit: Simon Kendrick (Creative Commons)

deal out of celebrating Valentine’s Day. Which got me thinking about why we don’t and how we could do better. We don’t mostly out of objection for the consumer culture that has arisen around it. Valentine’s Day these days seems to be more about cards and candy and flowers and jewelry than it does about actually showing love. It means going out for a special dinner and giving (and receiving) fancy gifts. All of that is supposed to convey to our beloved how we feel. And guess what? For some people it does just that.

But if you know me, you know my strongest objection to culturally prescribed events such as Valentine’s Day is the sense of obligation that comes with them. We’re left to wonder if all those gifts and flowers were given on February 14th just because of the date on the calendar. So how do we overcome this? By conveying to those we love what we treasure about them. Tell them what makes them special to us – and not just the things they do for us that we appreciate, but what it is about who they are that makes them valuable to us. Whether we speak it aloud, write it in a card, convey it through a hug, or ladle it into a meal – our intentions on Valentine’s Day (and perhaps everyday) should be to think of and communicate to our beloved what a treasure they are to us.

You’ll be amazed at how focusing on the aspect of “treasuring” someone will ramp up your expression of love. After all, Jesus said it Himself (in this case referring to our love of God over material things): “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Treasure God first. Then remember what it is about others that makes you treasure them. You’ll be sure to have your heart in the right place this Valentine’s Day!