A few years ago, on a warm spring afternoon, I sat on the back deck in the sun with my 2 children. They were about 9 and 11 at the time I think. I had a scribbler out, as I’m wont to do. I like me a good scribbler for ideas. I was contemplating summer plans — what should we do? Some camping? A trip somewhere? etc. In true Alex Baisley fashion, I was looking for our Big Dreams together.
I quickly realized I’d better ask them their opinion. To my surprise, they didn’t have any clear ideas to offer, which threw me a bit. Some ‘I don’t know’ shrugging went on.
So I changed tack. I asked, “well, what have been some of your favourite moments you can remember when you’re hanging out with me, or as a family?”
Their answers changed my life — and my work with clients to be honest.
A case of young people’s clear and simple wisdom vs old geezer’s complicated and sometimes cloudy wisdom.
One of ’em said “that time when you picked me up after school without anyone else in the van, and we went for a banana split.” Another said: “that time we watched 2 movies in a row in the middle of the afternoon.”
They went on to list things like board games, beating me at Crazy 8s, going to the local swimming hole with a picnic. And often enough, examples when I had spent time ONLY with that child and no one else.
WTF?!! Really??? I’m the Big Dream Program founder for eff sake. We’ve done 13,000 km roadtrips across Canada, and the US, swam in a mountain lake in the foothills of Colorado, saw alligators in the bayous of New Orleans…
None of those things made the cut. They didn’t even mention em. Those things were just… ‘fine’.
And right there, for me, the penny dropped. Ah my god.
Within seconds I saw the wisdom and learned the error in my summer planning — and ALL of my planning things with the family for that matter.
Lesson to self: “Alex… the trips, and all those bigger adventures are fun, and important, DO THOSE THINGS. But what is MOST important is… togetherness, specialness, they-matter-ness, and the times when I choose to do nothing else but hang out with THEM doing something simple.”
I don’t think anything they listed to me cost more than $10, and most of it free.
This can free a parent up REMARKABLY.
Put it this way… you may think taking them canoeing 50 miles through the Canadian Shield is what they and you will get the most from. They DO get a lot from this level of adventure, and we should do it if/when we can. It’s got other lessons in it. SO DO THAT! FOR SURE! IMPORTANT!
What may mean the most to them a year later looking back is: not the time you did the Big Dream, but the times you did the little dreams. THEIR little dreams.
My suggestion, if you like it, would be… open up a new page in your scribbler. And make a list. And item #1 on that list put something akin to this: Take them out of school early one day. (Call in sick to your work if you need to. Make up a lie for the school if you absolutely have to. Or blame it on me. I’d be proud to shoulder that kind of critique.) And go do something simple together that they like.
And so that you don’t put too much pressure on this one thing being amazing (they could be in a bad mood that day from something else entirely.) then continue to list 30 more things on your page there.
You can title your page: Small Dreams for me and my child.
And enlist their suggestions if they have any. My favourite strategy is to do it obliquely by asking them about favourite times in the past.
Then put an asterix beside your favourite and most immediately do-able items and do one this week. Or soon!
Selfish for me alert: if you do something as a result of reading this, please consider making my WEEK by telling me about it. I’m not a faceless folk writing an article, I’m Alex. A Dad. And I’d love to know that by taking the time to write this, about something that took me forever to learn, that some beautiful new family moments might happen ‘out there’ in your household. Or share this article with other parents, or on your social media. Maybe we can open up 100s of new experiences for kids and their adults that they’ll still remember 10 years from now. Here are my contact deets. Let me know!
Transparency alert: I’m not great at remembering this lesson. Please don’t picture anything remotely close to a perfect Dad here. And life gets busy. I remember and use this lesson 10% of the time for myself. Not 100%. But before it was about 0%.
But about those 10% of times… I remember all of them too. They matter a lot to me.
I now recognize them as Life Wealth. And that’s a way to create it. From scratch.
This is my son and I on one of our coffee dates. A direct result of the lesson I’m sharing in this article.
If this appeals to you…
Then heck with it. Carpe Diem. Go get your scribbler. List out some Small Dreams with your family. And tell me about it.
PS. I’d love to create an ideas list for another article. So if you do something with this, and are willing to share your experience with me, drop me a line!
PPS. A shout-out to parents who have variously and differently-abled children. It is possible that your list might look different. I’d love to know if the same approach of Small Dreams and connection-time applies to your family? Please let me know either way as I’d really like to hear.