November 13, 2015

6 Things I Want My Children to Remember About Their Childhood

It's very weird sometimes being the parent.

I remember so clearly feeling like my parents had everything under control and they were super old and wise. And now I look back and think, "Whoa, they were so young! Am I supposed to be all wise now too?"

A couple of times, we've left our girls with my parents or my mom has come to stay at our house while we go somewhere (or have a baby) and my girls get a little weepy about being left behind. And it's kind of hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that it's ME they are sad about leaving. My first instinct is, "You're way better off with my parents! They know how to be REAL parents. I'm just totally faking it over here."

But, either way, I'm the real mom to these little girls, and I'm responsible for their childhood.

Here are a few things I want them to look back and remember about their childhood:
  1. Adventure - big and small. We've had our big adventures, like Europe or our family cruise, but I like a little scooter ride to the park just as much or an impromptu picnic on the back patio. I like finding new restaurants in our city or scoping out bookstores or local theater. I loved a little ride on the train at the park this week. I want their childhoods to be a mix of Disneyland and museums, trips to the beach and hikes in the nearby hills and visits to big cities and camping in the middle of nowhere. 
  2. A house of books. Reading is so important to me and such a huge source of joy and learning in my life, and I want that to be the case for our girls. We go to the library at least once a week and always have our cards maxed out. The girls have big stacks of books next to their bed, I read aloud to them both chapter and picture books every day, we listen to audiobooks on road trips, and going to the bookstore is a family favorite outing. I love that Bart listens to lots of audiobooks and that he sits down to read with the girls many evenings after work while I finish dinner. I appreciate that my girls get books as gifts from their grandparents. Some of my best memories from growing up are my mom reading Harry Potter aloud to us before bed while we braided each others hair and painted our nails or listening to The Wolves of Willoughby Chase on our ten day camping trip in Colorado in 1994.  I really hope my girls have the same kinds of memories. 
  3. Helping others. This is something Bart and I have been talking about a lot in the past few weeks. We have friends and family members who are just the kind of people who naturally are inclined to be really helpful and go out of their way to offer service. I wish I was that kind of person, but I am not. But I want our family to have a culture of real service, of helping people in ways that are meaningful and actually needed. I want to be really engaged with our larger community on a long-term basis, not just during the holidays or once a year, and I'm trying to figure out what makes sense when our girls are still so little. If you have suggestions, I'd be very appreciative. 
  4. Great food. When Bart and I were engaged, his parents invited my mom and my grandmother (my dad's mom) to dinner at their house when my mom was up in Utah for the weekend. After a delicious dinner and then looking at my mother-in-law's enormous collection of cooking magazines (they line the tops of the kitchen cabinets all the way around), my grandmother said, "I'm so happy that Janssen is marrying into a family that values good food." And it's true. I don't know any family that loves and enjoys food as much as my in-laws. I love traveling with them because I know we'll try all sorts of amazing meals and treats (we all still talk about the time we accidentally stumbled on the annual Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory sale on a family trip to Durango). For my first birthday after Bart and I got married, my mother-in-law, who knows I don't love cake, made me chocolate chip cookies with ice cream and caramel sauce, and my father-in-law gave me a huge 10 pound bag of chocolate chips.  
  5. A house full of friends and family. One of the things I loved about my childhood was the family friends we had. One family, with children similar in age to my siblings and me, met up with us many years in a row for New Year's Eve and we'd spend a few days together in their grandparents' condo. Another of my dad's friends from high school and his wife came out to visit us in Las Vegas and every time we'd visit Wisconsin, we'd see them. When Bart and I went to Wisconsin six years ago, they took us out to dinner and then we spent the night at their house. I want those kinds of relationships for my children. We try to have people over for dinner or dessert frequently or invite friends along when we go on local outings. I want them to feel like our home is welcoming to friends and family of all ages and that we prioritize those relationships. 
  6. Relaxed fun at home. I don't want everything to be a production in our house - I like quiet afternoons where we read huge stacks of books together on the couch or make biscuits for dinner. Right now, we have plenty of afternoons where we stay home while Star takes a nap and I don't want those to feel like burned days. I also like to keep a few new toys or projects stashed away to pull out when everyone (me included) is getting restless at home and dinner and bedtime are still several hours away. For the last couple of weeks, my girls have been obsessed with these Bunchems that you can connect to make anything you want. These colorful little balls stick to each other and are perfect for making 3D creations. And I love that when you're done, they just pull apart and I can stash them away for another afternoon where the children are threatening mutiny. A little afternoon where I do some dinner prep or read my book on the couch and they play at the kitchen couch seems just about perfect to me. 

I'd love to hear what you want for your children to remember as part of their childhood (or what was memorable about your own growing up) - specific traditions, books or movies or music, travel, routines, or anything else.

One of the things I always think about from childhood is making up endless lip-sync dance routines with my sisters and friends and videotaping them.

You have no idea how happy I am that YouTube didn't exist back then.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


  1. That was a nice list.

    I don't know that I have really specific things from my own childhood or that I focus on for my kids, I just know that my family was always my support, and still is. We were a military family, so we moved every three years at least, and home was wherever my family was. My brother and sister were always my friends when I had to leave behind all the others. I have chosen a very different life from the one I lived growing up, and much different than the rest of my family still lives, but they still support me.

    Plus, they share my sense of humor and get my jokes, which is key.

    My three sons won't be moving every three years, but I still want them to feel their brothers are their friends for life and their parents are there for whatever.

  2. I always knew you were the perfect fit for Bart and for our family and reading this post re-confirmed it. I would second all of your choices (though I might add one or two more). Thanks for being so wonderful and for doing such a great job raising our grandchildren. We love and admire you.

  3. A great way to involve young children in helping others is by sponsoring a child. There are lots of organizations that do it, but the one I know best is Compassion International. You can read the letters you receive as a family, let Ella write a letter back, and Ani could draw a picture to include. Together you can learn things about the country/region the child is from, what kinds of things they need that they don't have, and what you can do as a family to help them.

  4. I work at a school for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders and neurotypical peers are a huge component of that work. With your homeschooling, that could be a great option for your girls.

  5. Loved your list--mine would be very similar! One of my favorite service activities with littles is going to the nursing home. The residents love it! They like to hold babies, squeeze little hands, and talk about their kids and grandkids. We call it "going to visit the grandmas and grandpas." You could go anytime, but I particularly like taking little cards on Valentine's Day or dressing the kids in their costumes and going around Halloween.

  6. What a great list.
    And those Bunchems look like so much fun.

  7. What a great list! We've taken our girls to help harvest food for low income families through our local United Way chapters. It's great for them to learn where food comes from (ground vs grocery store) while helping others. We also frequently round up toys and books we don't play with or use any more and donate them which also spurs a conversation about how fortunate they are.

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  9. Being grateful and saying thank you is very important to our family. My children, first with my help and now on their own, send thank you notes after receiving gifts, show appreciation when they receive gifts (even those they didn't like), and are always polite to their elders. I am so proud of them and the wonderful adults they have become.

  10. What a thoughtful and great list! I try to focus on similar things with my daughter (she'll be 2 next month). In addition, I've been focusing a lot on simply "being present." I fear that this generation will have a really difficult time being present, given social media and other ways technology will be a part of our lives over the next decades (for better or worse ;) So I try to make a conscious effort that family members put their phones/tablets away when we're together, so that we're really enjoying ourselves. In fact, during vacation, my husband and I instituted a "no phone" rule (with some caveats, but the general idea is: "no facebook/blogs/imessage/whatsapp/etc" during family vacations). It really feels wonderful to just enjoy each other's presence, without the many technological interruptions of 21st century life ;)

    With regards to ideas that I remember from my childhood (and one that we're definitely implementing once our daughter is older) is declaring a random family day of fun! Once a year, my sister and I would wake up, on a random school day, and my parents would tell us it was the "Harris Family Holiday," our random, one day a year when we would skip school (my parents would skip work) and we'd spend the day together, at the beach, going out to eat, going to the movies, or going on a hike. I honestly thought it was the coolest thing ever! It was so much fun to play hooky together as a family!

  11. I've just recently found your blog and this post really resonates with everything I am thinking about lately. I'm keeping a gratitude journal myself as a way to stay afloat through lots of change. I'm also trying to intentionally use the holidays as a way to teach my children about gratitude and giving. Thanks for posting!

  12. those bunchems look awesome! I think my girls would love them, but I have read a lot of negative reviews about them getting stuck in hair, so I am on the fence! I love your list. Reading is a big priority in our family too - I know that my childhood is what set the base for my current love of reading!!

  13. So I have to know what you think of all the negative press bunchems are getting about getting stuck in kids' hair. I thought they looked so cute & actually ordered them for my 6 year old...have you noticed your girls getting them stuck in their hair at all?

    1. All the packaging said to be really careful with them and my daughters actually put a couple in their babysitter's (super long!) hair (face palm!) but she used some oil and conditioner, which the package suggested, and got them out in a few minutes.

      Since then, they know not to fool around with them near hair, and we haven't had any problems. I'm inclined to think that as long as you just tell them beforehand not to put them in their hair, it won't be a problem. Kind of like paint - if you just let them run wild, they'll probably get it everywhere, but if they understand to use a brush and keep it away from their skin and clothing, most kids will be fine.

      Good luck!


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