02 February 2016

(Note: Another post from the archive. This originally ran in February 2013 on the Toledo Area Parent website.)

A few weeks ago, my husband and I asked our 4-year-old son, Billy, if he wanted to go to a college hockey game. He said yes and we bought the tickets, excited to share this sport with him for the first time.

When it came time to leave for the game, though, Billy had changed his mind. He didn’t want to leave his new Rescue Bots, prized birthday presents. We were torn. Our son playing happily by himself was a big deal.

But, we had bought the tickets and put our game shirts on; we were going!

My husband and I value experiences over things. We enjoy visiting local pumpkin farms and apple orchards. We go to baseball games and shows at the Huntington Center. We take classes at the YMCA. We’re always trying to find new, exciting places to camp. And we take advantage of our amazing park system.

But Billy? We realized recently that despite our noble approach to parenting, we forgot our audience. He enjoys watching the river fish at the local hunting and fishing store as much or more than the exotic ocean fish at the Shedd Aquarium. He enjoys playing with my craft supplies more than painting his own pottery at a studio. He likes the escalator at the mall as much as the rides at the festivals we pack our summer with.

Even piling sleeping bags and pillows and blankets on the living room floor, popping popcorn in the microwave and watching “Despicable Me” for the 100th time is as cool to him as seeing a drive-in movie.

Those things, those basic things, seem boring to us. But we’re not 4. Everything is new to Billy. Every experience. Every trip to the grocery store. Every day at the park. It’s all an adventure.

We think, “Well, we’ve been to this park or that park 16 times, it’s lost its appeal,” but to Billy, it’s a new day, and the slide is calling his name.

We realized we don’t have to expand his world so quickly – he loves the one he knows, and isn’t done exploring it yet. Squeezing every last drop of joy out of it. The important thing to him isn’t where he is, as long as he’s with us.

Billy didn’t love the hockey game. He was excited to see where his dad and I had gone to college. He liked watching the kids his size ice skating before the game. He loved hearing the pep band and seeing the team’s mascots. But he was bored. The highlight of his weekend was playing with his dad’s hockey stick and a ball in the living room. Our living room. Not an ice arena. Not a fancy aquarium. Not a far-away campground. Our living room. It’s a lot more exciting to a 4-year-old than a “hasn’t-been-4-in-a-long-time-year-old”.

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