A Memory in the Making
You don’t have to be a perfect parent to have a perfectly great time. You can create happy memories without stressing out!
STOP. REWIND. Let’s try this one again, I thought, only wishing it were possible. My idea to create happy memories that day wasn’t turning out as planned. The fun cookie-bake I had imagined was ending with dough-covered children and a goo-smeared dining room carpet. “Just go clean up, and I’ll finish the rest,” I told the kids, frustrated with the mess.
“But . . .” the chorus of three responded. “This is fun!”
Fun? Bickering over cookie cutters and dough territory is fun?
My mind flashed to a haloed image of happy children singing Scripture songs as they cut and sprinkled cookies. My kids weren’t following my ideal, but a memory was in the making all the same. I was left with only one alternative: making the most of the sticky situation. I had to lick the dough off my fingers and put my best (flour-sprinkled) foot forward. Here are five strategies that worked for me to create happy memories:
Check Your Attitude
Though usually not a parent’s first response to a family fiasco, gratitude is essential. Once I stopped long enough to find something good about my situation, I didn’t feel quite as sorry for myself. After all, I was spending time with my kids. And they did look kind of cute covered in cookie dough.
We can show our children we are thankful for the opportunity to be with them—even if things aren’t going according to plan. Brainstorm with your children and discover ways to make the event more enjoyable for everyone.
After talking with my kids, we decided we just needed to get organized. The children divided the remaining cookie dough into three sections then took turns rolling and cutting out the cookies. They each had one-on-one time with me (which made them happy), and the dining room survived intact (which made me happy).
Create the Atmosphere
When gauging the atmosphere of your time together, look at it through your children’s eyes. Ask yourself, “Is this the memory I want to give them?” If it isn’t, change it.
I decided I wanted to be remembered as a fun mom, not a grouch. Since the kids were already having fun, I was the one in need of an attitude adjustment. Amazingly, the atmosphere immediately took a turn for the better after that.
Bend Over Backwards
I’ve heard it said, “Rigid people are brittle and break easily.” It’s a catchy phrase, but being flexible takes a lot more bending than most parents, including me, enjoy. The first exercise in flexibility is turning that frown into a smile, or better yet, turning that sigh into laughter. In his classic book, Hugs for Moms, John William Smith says, “Who can remedy a deplorable situation? What weaponry will you use to stop this rushing wall of tension that threatens all of mankind? Laughter. You find the humor in the moment, and you laugh.”
The second exercise in flexibility is stepping out of your comfort zone. I often have to remind myself that life doesn’t fall apart if things don’t turn out the way we’ve planned. By throwing away the agenda, parents are free to go with the flow and even follow their children’s lead. As a result, I’ve discovered even odd-shaped cookies taste great.
Adapt Your Expectations
Sometimes the only problem with memory-making is the parent’s expectations. Make sure your expectations are realistic and then focus on what your children are doing right. I found rolling up my sleeves and getting busy offering help and encouragement was exactly what was needed. My hands were covered with dough, but the situation was much less sticky from then on.
My unfulfilled expectations weren’t nearly as disheartening when I took time to focus on my children’s delight. No amount of perfectly baked cookies could ever replace that.
Shape Future Smiles
Author Kathy Peels once said, “Memories. We talk about them as though we have a choice of whether or not to make them. We act as if circumstances of life are like disappearing ink—only there for a moment. We forget our children’s minds are like computer disks—constantly recording information. Who’s to know which memories will be erased and which will be indelibly etched in their minds?”
Our days are filled with events that will be forever remembered. The question is, will they also be forever cherished? I hope to look back someday at all the family flops with a smile or even a laugh—recalling those moments when fiascoes were turned into fun memories. I wonder what type of memories will cling to my children? Hopefully, one memory will be of their mother’s dough-covered, flour-splattered smile.
Remember When . . .
To get an idea of what things mean the most to your children, think about some of your own favorite memories.
1. What was your favorite pastime as a child?
2. Think about one special memory about each of your siblings.
3. What was your favorite meal?
4. What were some of the most memorable books you read?
5. Think of one particularly memorable event.
6. What scent or sound immediately takes you back to childhood?
7. What meaningful advice did you receive from an adult?
8. Think about someone who influenced your life profoundly.
9. Think about your proudest moment.
Now share these memories with your child. Then ask him to do the same. Your memory exchange will be unforgettable and you will realize that you did create happy memories!