I learned a lesson over half term. Actually, it’s something I knew already but apparently I needed to be reminded. Children don’t need experiences to be big or expensive or hugely flamboyant for them to be magical. A fun memory doesn’t need to cost loads of money for it to become an important one. This might seem like a really obvious fact but it’s one I think I’d lost sight of somewhere along the way – and, to be honest, I don’t think I’m the only one.
Take Christmas, for example. I love Christmas. I’m totally down with having the whole of December dedicated to festive merriment (just don’t put your tree up in November – but that’s another argument). We always try to cram in lots of fun days out and get the obligatory tickets to see Father Christmas, do the outdoor ice-skating etc. But you know the things my seven year old is most excited about this year? Making magic reindeer food at home and going to visit the “kind” Santa at the local garden centre.
This has been a huge relief for me, as someone who simply can’t afford to justify shelling out thousands of pounds on a trip to Lapland – or even Lapland UK. When your Insta-feed is bombarded with photos of families skiing or riding with real-life Huskies throughout December, it can make you feel like a bit of a failure if you’re not giving your own kids these experiences too. And don’t get me wrong, if we ever DID have an experience like that as a family I’m sure my kids would lap it up (no pun intended). But are they missing out by not having them? No, actually, I don’t think they are.
You know the things that are really important to children? They want their parents to be in a good mood, they want to feel loved, secure. They want just a tiny bit of magic and excitement peppered around, to make an experience feel special. I’m definitely guilty of forgetting this at times and focusing on the big experiences. Spending all my money and attention on creating amazing holiday memories or big days out. But Freya’s excitement over the “cheap” Santa at the garden centre and the totally free festive activity just goes to show that sometimes big doesn’t always mean better.
Over half term I put a lot of energy into creating big autumnal moments for my kids. We carved pumpkins, had fancy days out, rushed around squeezing every bit of fun out of the week that we could. We had fun, but by the end of it we were all pretty knackered. Yesterday, on an inset day, I asked both girls what they wanted to do and you know what they said? Go to the library and get a hot chocolate from the cafe.
The simple, small pleasures are just as important for kids as the big ones it seems. And this was welcome news to me, as I’d been feeling a bit guilty that we hadn’t gone away anywhere for the week like half the people on my Facebook and Instagram feed. It’s so easy to put pressure on yourself as a parent and worry that your kids are missing out if you’re not offering them up magical experience after magical experience, but judging from my girls’ excitement at the self-checkout at the library, sometimes all you need is a free book and five minutes doing the bar-code scanner to #liveyourbestlife.
This isn’t a post to have a go at anyone who might have gone away and done some amazing things over half term. I’m all for anyone grabbing experiences out of life and having as much fun as possible. And our summer holidays to France are a real highlight of our year. But if you didn’t manage to get up to much then here’s a little reminder that that’s OK, too. Mornings in pyjamas lounging in front of the TV, a trip to the park leaf-kicking and the occasional trip to the library or out for a hot chocolate can, apparently, be just as big a treat for a child as a day out riding roller-coasters. Who knew?!