How My Son Taught Me the Value of the Everyday

How My Son Taught Me the Value of the Everyday

The key to creating a happy childhood is making sure the little things count.


By: Leah Maxwell

My son started a kindergarten journal at school, and on the first page, the kids were asked to draw a picture of what they did over the summer. I thought about our camping weekend in the redwoods, the epic day we spent at the beach boardwalk amusement park, and the all-inclusive camp we paid out the nose for so he could have swimming lessons every day. There was the special outdoor movie night, the visits from his grandparents, the outing to the ice cream parlor to celebrate the end of summer, a handful of trips to the beach…

So which precious, treasured memory did he choose to capture? Which example of my attempt to create a full and magical childhood did he preserve in crayon for time immemorial? Well … he drew a picture of the library, including his little stick-figure self standing in front of a wall of books, proudly holding his library card.

The library? Seriously?

Now, it wasn’t news that he enjoyed our trips to the library (he comes by his nerd genes honestly), but I’d never have guessed that of all the memories we’d made over the summer, that’s the one that would stick with him, that would stand out. I’d treated those trips as a means to an end, one errand among many, but to him, they were much more than that. To him, they were a cherished ritual, dedicated blocks of time we could share -- just the two of us, once a week, every week -- bonding over something we both love. What a sweet reminder that it really is the little things that count.

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I think it’s natural for parents to want to do spectacular stuff for our kids -- plan elaborate vacations and special events and once-in-a-lifetime experiences -- but when we take a step back, we’ll often see that it’s the everyday moments that will endure. Yes, it’s a bit like the child who receives a fancy new toy and is more enamored with the box it came in, but if, in the end, your kid ends up happy, isn’t that really the point?

For me, being able to focus on the small things also takes a lot of pressure off the part of my Pinterest®-addled brain that thinks the way to my kids’ hearts is through orchestrating regular spectacles of child-friendly delight and wonder. How freeing, then, to know that it doesn’t have to be difficult or cost a lot of money to build a childhood filled with all the most important things: engagement, togetherness, closeness, love.

The moments that will actually shape my children and define the borders of their childhoods are not vacations to a theme park or getting exactly what they want for Christmas but the cumulative effect of repeated rituals, which leave a lasting impression specifically because they’re part of “normal life”: the note in the lunch box, the snack of graham crackers and milk every day after school, the bedtime stories on the little orange couch, all those summer visits to the library. What a gift to remember that the beauty of our lives is in the everyday, every single day.

What are the little things you hope your kids will remember most about their childhoods?



Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two young boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and a Boy since 2003.

Image ©iStock.com/Imgorthand

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