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There's No Such Thing as a 'Fun' Outing With Young Kids

Photograph by Twenty20

The other day, I was in a group chat with several mom friends when one of them posed a question: "Do you find that every 'fun' activity you plan for your kids always ends sad?"

The overwhelming response, especially from those of us who have now been mothers for several years, was a resounding YES!

It happens almost every time: You plan a special outing with your kids, imagining their sweet little faces lighting up with joy while you're mapping out the details. It’s going to be a perfect day—what could possibly go wrong? Well, when it comes to little kids, it turns out the answer is A LOT.

One Christmas season, we decided to go “hunting” for our own Christmas tree. I looked forward to it for weeks, imagining my three young boys gleefully tramping through a winter wonderland in search of the perfect tree that would fill our home with the glorious scent of pine.

My idyllic hopes would soon be dashed, however, as trouble began right away. Our plan was to meet up with my brother and his family the morning of the hunt, but we were running late as we frantically searched for a missing glove. Turns out, getting three kids winter-ready and finding all the gear required can take hours.

What's taken me years to learn is that I just need to expect that nothing will go smoothly.

I tried to stay upbeat when we finally reached our destination, but my kids all seemed grumpy and immediately began to complain.

“It’s cold,” they declared, “How far do we have to walk?”

My two older boys were constantly fighting with each other and my youngest was just … not interested. And so it went.

There were injuries, complicated bathroom breaks (squatting in the trees) and some under-our-breath cursing from my husband and me. When we finally had our tree, I attempted to get one decent family picture while my kids knocked each other over, and cried because “he threw snow at me, and now it’s going down my back.”

Sigh.

This is true parenthood: full of frustrating obstacles and surprises. What's taken me years to learn is that I just need to expect that nothing will go smoothly. The reality is that shoes will get lost, tummies will hurt and someone will usually cry at some point. (Sometimes it's even me.)

There's often a lot of mayhem going on behind the scenes to achieve those Instagram-worthy family photos, but the real magic of parenthood is there too: those rare, blissful occasions when your child laughs with unadulterated joy, when they say "thank you, Mom" or tell you they love you, when the sun hits their face just right and you marvel at how perfectly beautiful they are and how lucky you are to be their mom.

All you can really do is savor those little moments as they come because the ones that try your patience and sanity won't be far behind. While fun outings with young kids will almost never go as planned, 10 years from now, you'll be remembering that sweet smile and not the tantrum they threw in front of Santa. To me, that's worth it.

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