Building My Kid's List of Dreams

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The last few years have been full of limitations. My kids have had two quarantine birthdays each. Not only that, but I got a divorce in 2020 and my finances changed significantly — as well as my bandwidth for out-of-the-house activities with two kids.

To set some goals and build some framework for future planning, one day, I grabbed a blank piece of paper and some colorful markers. I wrote at the top, “Our List of Dreams,” and asked my kids to tell me everything they wanted to do. At first, they stuck to things in our current repertoire. Then, they added “Take the dog to the dog park,” “Go to the zoo,” and “Watch TV all day.” I added “Read all day” as a reaction to that last one and asked them to think bigger. They asked to go to the pool. Poor things, they hadn’t been able to go to our city-run outdoor or indoor pools all year.

I told them to think even bigger, to think of things they’d never done. My son was the first to dream big, suggesting “Dinosaur museum.” “Yes!” I said, “There’s one in New York City.” My daughter perked up at that. She’d been wanting to go back to NYC since I took her when she was 4 and had been telling her brother all about the “giant duck” in Times Square (it’s a video on a billboard). We added NYC to the list and the more general “See a play” — it breaks  my theater-kid heart that they haven’t seen one since March 2020. My son suggested “arcade” and “movie theater.” My daughter added “amusement park” and “biking.”

Here, I paused and brought out a highlighter. I told them I’d highlight the ones that are easy to do, that don’t cost much money, and are local. The big ones, the ones that require planning, budgeting, and out-of-town travel, I marked with stars. They added several more simple local adventures: kayaking, beach, climbing trees, gardening, a trip to the creek, and the very general “toys.”

I stuck the list on a cabinet. We peek at it and talk about it every so often. My kids, 5 and 7, just hit their two weeks post second vaccine shot on Christmas Day, and, Omicron willing, we are starting to think about where we might be able to vacation someday.

I don’t have a lot of expendable income for trips to Disney or the like, but I can plan, budget, and dream with our list in mind. We’ve already made it to the creek and our neighborhood pool opened back up, giving my water babies the chance to learn to swim. The post-vaccine Sunday we napped and did indeed watch TV all day, so we can check that one off — for probably not the last time. We saw a movie in the movie theater.

As we plan our weekends, school breaks, and futures together as a family of three (plus dog), allowing room for our dreams — big and small — brings us together. It might take us years to get through our whole list and it will surely change and grow as the kids do, but I like the idea of having fun activities up on the wall for us to fantasize about. I think I’ll start looking into dog-friendly beach rentals for spring break.

Tags: Activities for Kids, Family, Motherhood, parenting

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Written By

Laura Wheatman Hill

Laura Wheatman Hill lives in Oregon with her two children. She has been published by CNN, Real Simple, Parents, and others. See Full Bio

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