How to create more adventures (a reader time makeover)

img_1583One common complaint of growing older is that the days seem to blur together. Life becomes routine: up, ready, commute, work, commute, dinner, TV, bed. To a child, time seems slower because all is new. The brain works hard as it records new memories. For many adults, on the other hand, little distinguishes any given day from the hundreds that precede it. Time is marked mostly by the heights of children (“My, how you’ve grown!”)

There is, however, a way to change this. That is to figure out the answer to this question: Why is today different from all other days?

It is an echo, of course, of the Passover question (why is tonight different from all other nights?) with a similar spur toward mindfulness but a more secular intent. Planning in adventures makes each day different in memory, or at least each week, if that’s what you can pull off.

So how to do that? This brings us to today’s reader makeover.

Mary Sue responded to my call for time logs. She has an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old, and had told me that “we weren’t prioritizing fun, memory making activities because we were just following the game, birthday party, and playdate schedule.” She said she was working on this, and was getting better, and was also trying to schedule date nights because “these things don’t just happen…unfortunately.”

She turned in her log, seeking input, but when I looked at it, I realized that she didn’t need a makeover. Mary Sue was doing a great job planning in fun. A rather ordinary week in summer featured three dinners with friends (some as a family), a manicure, an extended family dinner get-together, and even a night-time beach excursion for some playing on the sand. When I asked about this abundance of activities beyond laundry and TV, she said that “I got the idea from your book I Know How She Does It.”

So I’m going to count this as a makeover 🙂

Anyway, she reported that in the past, she had felt “like our weekends were full of driving to and from soccer with errands and TV peppered in there.” As she tried to figure out the problem, she realized that her husband wasn’t really a planner. She had been waiting for him to suggest or discuss various options, which was not going to happen. However, she had found that he was often willing to go along with what she’d come up with. The answer to changing her weekends was being pro-active. So she did four things:

1. “When I see something interesting, I either schedule it right then or schedule time to make the plan.”

2. “If friends invite us to do stuff, I work hard to say yes.”

3. “Pre-schedule date nights. My husband got us a half season of tickets at a theater. We didn’t love the plays, but we approached them as theater critics. It was a lot of fun because we would go out to dinner before the play. We are terrible at planning date nights.”

4. “Something new I am trying this soccer season is to identify weekends we can do something when I set up the schedule. Instead of worrying about finding something I really really want to do, I am finding stuff that is fun to do when we have the time.”

The net result, she said was that “I definitely feel like I appreciate the memories I’m making more.” Days are different from other days. Life “doesn’t just blur together.”

I think those are four great ideas, if they do require people to get their heads around the idea of planning leisure time. Longtime readers know I’m a definite “J” in Myers-Briggs parlance. I derive great pleasure from knowing something fun is planned in the future. With four kids, weekends can easily be consumed with random activities, so I have to be both pro-active and play defense too. I definitely do #1 on the list above. I am constantly looking for things that would seem fun, like special holiday parties at area attractions, or things we’ve enjoyed in the past (apple picking, etc.), or shows. I write these down or send myself a note. One reason to make a summer fun list (or an autumn fun list! or a Christmas fun list!) is to spur yourself to hunt for such activities. I probably err more on the side of booking stuff if I think it sounds fun. We can always not do it. I would also prefer to expand my fun budget and trim elsewhere. As we are getting a more intense sports and birthday party schedule as more kids enter that zone, I am also doing more of #4. I can see that a weekend is lighter than others so I know that’s the weekend to aim for the long bike ride through the fall colors in the Poconos.

But defense matters too. We chose this fall to pack the sports into weekend mornings. By 11:30 on Saturday we have done swim, flag football, and soccer. My husband stayed up until midnight to sign up for two Sunday morning classes at the YMCA (gymnastics and swim for 2 kids — the others go to church with me generally). Those classes fill up fast and we wanted certain ones! But the result is that we’re then done by noon both days. We can have a relaxed afternoon and do post-nap adventures. This Sunday we loaded the bikes on the cars and went to Valley Forge. We biked the loop under the beautiful September sunshine. It was great!

It is always easier not to create adventures, but as Mary Sue has been finding, they do make life more fun. Weekends do not have to be a death march of chores and children’s activities. With a little thought, they won’t be.

A side note on couples and planning: Sometimes “Js” married to “Ps” just don’t understand why their spouses don’t want to have these planning conversations. Or sometimes neither party is a real J but Mom winds up doing a lot of the scheduling because Mom takes the lead on kid activities. Sometimes this can become a source of resentment. But if, overall, the balance of labor in a household is not that bad, I would suggest trying to get over it. After all, if you’re the planner, you basically get to determine what everyone does! If you want to go apple-picking, you go apple-picking. The other person/people can always decline, but at least a reasonable chunk of time they’ll probably go along, and even if they don’t, they probably won’t sabotage things (unless the relationship has a lot more problems — but that is a different issue).

Photo: Any guesses where this was taken?

16 thoughts on “How to create more adventures (a reader time makeover)

  1. LOVE this post. I am (obviously) a total J too 🙂 (ESFJ). However- I was brought up by a family that was always erring on the side of NOT doing things. I sometimes find myself having to fight that urge (laziness? homebodiedness? fear?) when it hits, and I almost never regret an activity.

  2. I needed this! Hubby and I are both ISTJs and if it were up to him, we’d each sit quietly with our electronic device of choice all weekend 🙂 I am way more of a planner by nature, and he is happy to go along with activities if I come up with them. Lately our 7yo has been suggesting things on Saturday mornings and they’ve been great ideas so maybe she can take on some of our fun planning 🙂

    We have no weekend scheduled activities this season, though the girls have gotten invited to 5 birthday parties for Sept/Oct already (not including their own!). Since parties are not yet reliably drop-off, this tends to eat into our weekend free time as well.

    We have also booked a regular sitter every other week who speaks Spanish so my girls can practice now that they’re no longer in an immersion program. Which means hubby and I need to come up with some date night things to do. I’m looking forward to that!

    1. @ARC- you should totally let your 7-year-old plan! There are probably lots of area magazines with listings of kid friendly activities, so you don’t have to send her off into the wilds of Google to find stuff 🙂

  3. My husband takes the boys one weekend day every week for “boys’ day.” I don’t know what they do, but it could be chuck-e-cheese or the river or anything in between. When he was gone for all of last fall, I wrote lots of ideas on Popsicle sticks and put them in an “adventure jar” – I coded the ends with colored tape for out of the house, weekend night, afternoon at home, etc – and let the kids choose an adventure. It was a huge hit. He’s been gone again since June, and I haven’t been nearly as good about using the adventure jar, partly because of summer travel and partly because work has invaded recent weekends, but thanks for the reminder! We have a few weeks left to get in some good adventures before Dad returns and takes over the planning (I’d never leave the house if he didn’t make me!).

  4. I enjoyed this post! It is definitely a lot of work planning activities for the family to do (my husband is also a go with the flow kind of guy, so it is up to me if we want to do something) but I have rarely regretted any activities even if they ended up being less than stellar because it still got us out of the house together, making memories, and that is the most important thing in my book.

  5. This is a great post because it highlights someone who was successful with scheduling family fun. It seems like everyone is always complaining about how there is no time to get everything done, let alone have extra time for fun. Even if they do achieve a semblance of balance, it seems like they’re always on the search for something more. I love reading about someone who is content with the little victories.

      1. I’m a female INTJ too – although not super into MB and hadn’t thought much about my need to plan vs my husband’s resistance to planning things for the family. I’m always trying to get him to participate in the planning, and it doesn’t go well. Hmm…. Interesting!! I don’t know his Myers-Briggs type.

  6. I’m not sure if I’m a true INTJ or just my OCD, but one of my quarterly goal columns is “Experiences.” These are not traditions that always happen, but special things I want to make sure happen. I know that we have certain Christmas traditions that will occurs like clock work, but one of my Q4 goals under Experiences will be the Polar Express this year. They are not all big experiences either. Some like have Edwards over for dinner, take kids bowling, and do a pancakes for dinner night. Others are bigger: see The Marriage of Figaro, Polar Express, hike Part of Appalachian trail… But the key is listing them out to ensure they happen!

    1. @Jennie – we “Js” don’t see anything wrong about that. If you want amazing experiences to happen, you need to plan to have them happen. Otherwise you just watch TV and sit around. Simple as that. I make a holiday fun list, and a summer fun list. There are probably a few autumn things I should list too, if it’s a shorter list. Hmm.. Need to think about that.

  7. I make a Google doc spreadsheet a few weeks before each season starts (going by the equinox/solstice dates). I include activities, projects, and goals–sort of like your quarterly goals, Laura. This way everything is in one place and I can check things off, which I find very satisfying. I always list much more than I’m able to do, but even just getting everything down in a list relaxes me. It also helps when I make the list the following year, because I can prioritize things I didn’t get to and remember to include the things I really loved.

    I don’t have kids yet but one great way my fiance and I have found for making plans with friends (some with kids and some without–we all have a lot going on and have to plan to get together!) is to create Facebook events. We try to have game nights every month or so, so one person creates an event with the date, and people can comment on whether or not this works for them as well as hash out any other details, and everyone in the group can see it. It’s easier than texting or emailing with a large group of people, because people get a notice when they are invited and can respond that they are going, not going, or might be going. It’s also great for planning vacations with friends and family–everyone can chime in and add lists of what to bring, what they want to do, and so on.

    1. @Caitlin – I find list making pretty satisfying too. I suspect many people who read this blog feel the same way! I have to be careful that I’m not so busy defining the tasks that I fail to do the tasks… 🙂

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