(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
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
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
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”.