Dirt Over Disney :: What Kids Really Like

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Like many of us, I feel the pull to be a Pinterest mom who effortlessly plans amazing parties, outings, and family vacations for the world to admire.

But I try to fight that urge.

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Allow Space for Simple, Naturally Occurring Fun

On the first Monday after school started, I dropped off my three daughters for school then walked back to the car with my four-year-old son, Jude. As I was going over my day’s to-do list in my mind, Jude asked if he could play in the dirt near our car.

The “get stuff done” part of my brain wanted to say, “No, we can’t play now because we have things to do.”

But I resisted and let him stop and play in the dirt.

He asked me to sit next to him and play in the dirt. I was wearing a cute pink dress I didn’t want to get dirty, and I don’t like the dusty feel of dirt. But I decided to concede, and I sat next to him.

Jude generously handed me his green car and kept his yellow one, so we could play together.

Part of me wanted to rush our playtime together because there was so much I wanted to accomplish that day, like loads of laundry, piles of dishes, and miles of vacuuming.

Another part of me wanted us to use our time to do something more magical because it was a unique opportunity to have a precious moment alone together. It seemed we should do something more special, like go to the science museum or the zoo.

Young kid playing in the dirt

But as we drove his cars in the dirt and collected tiny rocks in an empty water bottle I pulled out of my bag, it struck me how great the moment was. It was better than doing something “magical.” This activity was my son’s choice and something he wholeheartedly enjoyed. 

Fight the Urge to Be the Fairy Godmother

I often feel “Pinterest pressure” to make my kids’ lives Disney World level. I would love to give them magical moments all the time.  

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But I’ve found most young kids (and many times older ones) prefer parents who are present, parents who are peaceful, parents who play and laugh and spend time doing things they enjoy together.

Back when my oldest kids were young, my parents took our family on a cruise. We had a great time. When the cruise was over, we asked our oldest daughter, who was almost four at the time, what she enjoyed the most. Her favorite part ended up that she got to eat cereal each morning.

Young kids don’t understand and value sacrifice, no matter how great, or the expense of things, no matter how high.

A happy family with kids on their parents' shoulders.

What Kids Actually Enjoy

Nothing brings Jude more joy than a little make-believe game we play that only lasts for 15 seconds. Kids don’t mind repetition — most actually love it. This is why I’ll let him play little pretend games over and over again, or as many times as I can handle.

Kids like what they like. They don’t like things more because they cost more, because they were hard to come by, or because they are rare. 

I’m still a fan of taking young kids on vacations, but I’ve also learned not to put too much stress or money into things at the expense of me being present or at the expense of me being a peaceful mom.

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I’ve also felt great freedom that my kids’ birthday parties don’t have to be something Pinterest worthy.

As a recovering perfectionist, I found myself wanting my kids’ parties to be beautiful, life-changing experiences. But the truth is, my kids would prefer mismatched balloon colors.

So many amazing vacations, perfectly planned family outings, and truly magical kid birthday parties are void of these most valuable things that children desire. 

Kids love peaceful adults. Kids love not being yelled at. Kids love not feeling pressured. Kids love feeling safe. Kids love not being rushed. Kids love laughing. Kids love messes. Kids love getting to share in activities they enjoy with their friends. Kids love free play. Kids love parents who are truly engaged with them while they are doing whatever they are doing. Kids love simple pleasures that most adults have forgotten exist. 

Our culture, our pride, and our expectations put so much pressure on our children — AND OURSELVES — but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Enjoy simple, unplanned, normal moments when they are little.

Just play in that dirt.

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Proud to be raised in Burleson (shout out Kelly Clarkson), Jami was even the Elk mascot for her beloved Burleson High School. Jami's greatest pleasure comes from exploring the world and learning about all the beautifully unique people in it, so she started a business in the summer of 2021 taking groups of women around the world! Her business, Women Exploring the World has already taken women to experience Christmas markets in Bruges, Brussels; Paris, and London. They've also taken women to Costa Rica, Italy, Tanzania/Zanzibar, Scotland, and to Norway to see the Northern lights. Jami's greatest gift is her family, Corban, her beloved hubby; Jessy (born 2011); Maggy (born 2013); Lilly (born 2015); and Jude (born 2018). Besides running her travel business, Jami spends her days having adventures with her kids, homeschooling them part-time, assistant coaching PE, attempting to keep her brother and sister labradors out of trouble, keeping her son from killing their cat, and supporting her husband at his Edward Jones office downtown Fort Worth. Jami is a woman secure in God's love for her. He is her first love.

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