I'm a planner. I like to know what I will be doing hourly since my motherly duties, in addition to keeping up with my kids' and husband's schedules, often means the days magically slip away. My husband, on the other hand, loves spontaneity. He could (and has) decide to go camping and leave within the hour. I, on the other hand, can't handle the anxiety of packing everyone up in a hurry. My husband often comes home with a list of fun things we could do that evening, but that tends to throw off what I had planned and gets rejected. Over the years, we have learned that in order for me to be on board with his crazy ideas, he has to plan in advance.
One weekend, we hadn't made definite plans. We had a few ideas in mind, but couldn't make a decision. Morning rolled around and we still hadn't made up our minds about what we wanted to do, so we decided to head to a little town we had heard about. We packed a bag with snacks and got in the car with very inquisitive kids. "Where are we going? What are we doing? Is there a playground? Can we have snacks? Can we watch a movie?" The two adults in the car knew that we just needed to get out of the house, but didn't really care where we went or what we did. Although this kind of "plan" (or lack thereof, rather) challenged my Type A personality, I knew a little unplanned adventure wouldn't completely kill me.
Our kids did not like our vague responses when we told them we didn't know what we would be doing in Mukilteo. (That's the "me" in them – they needed a plan.) We told them we could go see the lighthouse, walk around the beach, have lunch or just relax. More whining. "But I hate the beach! I'm hungry. I'm bored! I hate driving!" and so on. We refused to turn on a movie, and opted for the radio or silence instead. It was only a 30-minute drive north, so it wasn't too bad.
When we arrived in Mukilteo, we saw that it had a nice playground, which was a win in the kids' minds. We let them wander and lead us to what they wanted to do.
As we walked around the town, I chatted with Oliver about why he loved the playground so much. He replied that he loved to climb on things and loved feeling brave when he could reach the top. The thing about Oliver is that while he loves being adventurous, he is also very cautious. He looks to us to encourage confidence in him and when he musters up that courage he feels a sense of accomplishment - a victory over his insecurities. These experiences, while not monumental, helped pave the way for us to talk about his insecurities at school. We often tell him to be brave, but that wasn't enough. During our walk, he confided in me that he wanted to be brave in school so that his little sister, who is in his same class, wouldn't be scared. (My heart may have burst into a million pieces.)
Later, the kids found a little path to the water, and quickly began to use their imaginations, envisioning it leading them to sea dragons.
Driftwood became high cliffs in the forest. Rocks became weapons to destroy the evil sea dragons. They each became little soldiers ready for battle. Dad was their leader and they followed his every move.
That day we had no timetable, agenda, itinerary or checklist to follow. We had the freedom to explore and play all day. Not only was it good for me to make this spontaneous trip, it was good for the kids to see that spontaneity and improvisation are okay. It was good for them to see that Mom can be fun and up for an unplanned adventure. Life can't always be based on to-do lists and scheduled hourly. My son and I both needed to learn how to deal with a little rocking of our boat. We needed to learn to improvise with an uncertain environment and make it work for us. I saw Oliver's hesitance at first, but then he just let go and was able to have a good time being free from organized fun.
To a goal-oriented girl like me this is hard to say, but it turns out that sometimes no plans are the best plans.