Monthly Archives: December 2014

Looking Back on The Gift of Experience

There was a lot of talk over the last year about giving experiences instead of gifts, from minimal and cheap (on demand backrubs, drive in the country … the gift of you!) to over-the-top fancy (baloon ride over Everest anyone? Party with a rock star?). Whatever you spend, it’s about how family trips, explorations, and shared projects are the things kids remember, far more than the toy that breaks, runs out of batteries, or just loses its appeal. Kids are adventurers and romantics at heart: just look at many of the toys and games they love. The experience-as-gift movement is an acknowledgement that the world is full of adventure and romance, and kids instantly respond to being out in it, climbing, running, exploring … yes, even learning.

We are parents of adult children (technically, though one is still at home and in school), and we have a complicated perspective on this. As children age, they are less interested in doing things with their parents. I, Dave, ask my 18-year old son almost weekly if he’d like to go for a run, a bike ride, a hike, or even just to “do something”. He says, “No,” a lot these days. If I gave him An Experience for Christmas–say, a “Hike With Dad”–it might not go over too well. He’d rather do other things; gaming with friends, indoors or out. But, honestly his responses would be harder to take if we had never done anything together. Our kids say “No” to such experiences not because they aren’t interested, but because they’ve *been there done that*. And they’ve “been there” because we brought them there. They’ve “done that”, because we did it with them. (And, we know, they aren’t done visiting the places we introduced them to … they’ll keep going back with friends, loved ones.)

Dad can still get the boy out for an experience. It’s hard, but it still happens. The secret is picking an experience that he hasn’t had yet. Two years ago it was a week-long trip to Oregon to race in a triathlon. Next year it’s a trip to the Sierras to climb a peak that dad climbed last when he was 18. Oof. What am I going to follow that with? Space tourism?

But he says “Yes.”


This post originally appeared on the Parenting on The Peninsula Blog.

The Difference A Day Makes

Some days are filled with so many … difficulties, that we wonder how we’ll get through them. In our home, we have a Sunday habit of saying things like, “Ugh, this is going to be a hard week!” to anyone in the house who will listen. We try to remind each other that we work for a living, and work is work. Sure there are down weeks, slow weeks, rare vacation weeks, but not enough to truly decompress. But the days …. there are some days that seem especially volatile. And this is the season of So Much Merriment That We Don’t Think We Can Take An Ounce More Ho-Ho-Holiday Cheer.

We really love the holidays: there’s a lot of beauty in traditional decorations set against the chill of winter, and there are some powerful stories that can anchor us in those traditions, if you fight past the annual anemic television “specials” that are about as meaningful as a greeting card. But the holidays can be stressful too, with all the special events and pressure to buy things that infiltrate our holy days.

Stress makes us impatient and short with one another. Simple statements that would normally be taken at face value can ignite fiery reactions. We’ve seen a couple days of intense personal conflict in our work environments in recent weeks; people getting hurt, missing the meaning of things, over-reacting. We might have been those people.

But time is a great leveler. Some days can be hard, but they are followed by days where the weather is a bit different, the pressure has shifted a little, things are a bit more manageable. New perspectives give us new ways of seeing, and a chance to reflect on yesterday’s trouble with the possibility of a new response. Age or experience has taught us that we can survive rough days, and to look past conflict to see the pressure and loneliness and worry that gives us so much trouble during these seasons. Maybe seeing these things can allow us to forgive the outbursts, and perhaps respond in a way that soothes the real hurt.

Parents know all about tantrums, but it’s not only kids that lose it from time to time. We really hope that, as parents (and friends and coworkers) that we can be a source of calm in difficult times. We aren’t always, but we try.