All of my children love adventure, but my second son, William, actually needs it. Adventure feeds his soul. He is always the first one to jump into a body of water fully clothed, to get dirty, climb higher, stay up late, and say yes to the new, all in the name of chasing fun and embracing life.
That means these months of staying home and sheltering in place due to the pandemic have been very tough for him. The endless sameness of our days is not comforting to him. In fact, it’s breaking his spirit. Many times, by late afternoon he is snappy with his siblings or just plain grumpy . On some occasions, I have found him in his room crying. “I miss seeing my friends,” he’ll confess. Or, “I just want to go out and do something! Every day feels the same. I’m so tired of it.”
It would be easy in these moments to dole out platitudes and say things like, “We all have to do our part.” Or, “Being tired of this is no excuse to be a grump.” But I know that understanding and compassion go a lot farther in meeting my child’s heart than platitudes ever do.
So instead of telling him his feelings are not valid, or even worse, to “snap out of it,” I remember that for more than one day of this quarantine, I have felt the exact same way he does. And I hold him close and I say, “I’m so sorry. I understand. This is not easy.” Being compassionate and gentle opens the doors to connection between the two of us. After all, the last thing in the world I want to do when he’s feeling down is to slam that door shut.
And then, if I can, I want to take the next step, and give him the adventure he’s longing for. Because adventure creates connection. And connection is what he really needs right now.
But how do we provide the adventures our kids (and maybe we) are longing for while staying home? Well, it’s going to take some creativity, some breaking out of the regular routine, and it might even cause some mess or inconvenience. But the smile on their faces afterward will be worth it!
For example, the other day William was moping, bored, and angry at the world. My wonderfully understanding husband said, “Hey William! I have to go under the house after work. Why don’t you come with me?” Suddenly William had something to look forward to. He found his headlamp and work gloves, donned a mask, and got ready with some pep in his step!
When they crawled back out, absolutely filthy dirty of course, he was bubbling over with joy. “It was so cool under there!” he exclaimed. “Look! We found a possum skull!” He held up the skull proudly, showing us the teeth and jawbone. He told us every detail about their 30 minutes under the house. He was so excited that he wanted everyone to climb back under the house with him right then and there.
You see, William is so relationally driven that he doesn’t ever want to keep his adventures to himself. He wants to share them. When he’s discouraged, we have to take the first step and invite him into adventure with us. But once we do, he’s ready to jump in and then invite the world to join him too! By taking that first step, we build a bridge between our hearts rather than a wall. And that’s what I want with my kids all the time, pandemic or not.
Adventuring with our kids does take time, effort and occasionally saying yes to some mess. But it doesn’t have to take something extraordinary. Our kids don’t need us to dazzle them with grandiose adventures. They just need us to invite them into a new book, or into the kitchen to cook dinner, or even to crawl under the house with us. They just need us to invite them into our lives, to adventure together.
Greta Eskridge is a homeschooling mom of 4. She and her artist husband, Aaron, make their home in sunny southern California. Greta is also an author and speaker. Her first book releases July 2020 with Thomas Nelson. Greta loves to travel the country speaking and sharing her message of joyful, connected parenting. Greta would love to connect with you on her blog at www.gretaeskridge.com or on her Instagram feed. You’ll find her there @maandpamodern.