I knew I had several posts on this subject in me.
Last week my mom and I took the darlings (Isabelle and her cousins Sofie, John and Lilia) to the Arboretum for a picnic and nature fun. It was one of the more enjoyable times as we wisely decided to drive from place to place rather than walk 3 miles with the kids. My mom packed simple sandwiches she had cut into star shapes along with frozen gogurt, a bag of potato chips, a bag of ice, a bottle of juice, cups and napkins. I am special so I packed my own salad. :) The kids loved the star shaped sandwiches and everything else. But they quickly ate everything up to get on with the running around and playing. Neither of us had a camera with so I had to pull out the phone for some documentation during our picnic:
We had a great time and "no rules" auntie encouraged the kids to go off path to get a closer look down a ravine, to find a stick to poke in the duck weed on a pond, to climb the rocks around the man made waterfall and cool their feet in a large fountain. Yes I am that mom. :) Some parents walking around scolded their kids for trying to follow our lead and others gladly joined in.
Part way through the afternoon the kids started getting thirsty. Grandma had suggested that we could walk up to the main building and buy a "special" drink but the kids didn't have time for that. Instead we ended up back at the car popping open the back and pulling out a cup, left over ice and pouring more juice. The darlings loved it and were back playing as fast as they could slam down their juice.
It got me thinking about the treats we had as kids. There wasn't a place for us to get a coffee, smoothie or ice cream cone on every corner growing up. When we were little we begged to go to Dairy Queen every time we went to the cabin but more times than not we drove right by. And when we did stop we were restricted to a simple dipped cone not a big fancy treat like a banana split. And note that we only asked when we drove up to the cabin because we never went to Dairy Queen just because it was a hot day and we were bored. It was always attached to another special event.
However, as my kids grow up there is nothing special about going out to eat. Isabelle knows what drinks she likes at Caribou and regularly ask for a "coffee drink". We can barely go out without stopping to pick up a snack of some kind. I heard a woman speaking when Jake was little and Caribou and Starbucks were just beginning to boom talk about how the Caribou at the mall had just combined her two loves making shopping an even more glorious experience. Considering the success of these companies I don't think she is the only one that feels this way. I have noticed I can't do anything these days without a $4 drink of something in my hand.
The novelty has worn off for our children. There is an expectation that we will stop at Caribou or buy ice cream when we go to the mall. There is no hopeful anticipation that I MIGHT buy a treat. There is the expectation that I WILL buy a treat. But if my children find having a glass of juice out of the back of grandma's car to be an acceptable treat maybe it is time I re-thought my approach to "special" treats. It takes a little more planning to bring your own treat but ultimately it is simpler, healthier and cheaper to bring your own. I read a little blurb today about improving our health and they mentioned simplifying your life in ways like this improves your health by lowering your stress. And I am all about living a stress free life.
This summer was already planned as a low spending summer. But I think that realizing how much fun and special the simplicity of food from home rather than a restaurant is for my children will give me the motivation and enjoyment to persevere and do the extra work this summer. And when we do decide to treat ourselves to a little Dairy Queen it really will be a treat and maybe they will appreciate it a little more too.