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Wednesday, March 16, 2005 | It all began when I stumbled upon one of my third-grade son’s journal entries from second grade. It was a simple sentence that changed our lives.

It was late August, and I had finally decided to put away my kids’ papers and assignments from the previous school year, before the next school year started.

I opened a notebook and saw that his second-grade teacher had asked her students to write down what they like to do with their families.

My heart sank when I read my son’s response: “We don’t really do anything together as a family.”

I was stunned. How could he write that? How could that be? He had never complained or mentioned the subject before, yet here it was in writing – a thought shared with a teacher that profoundly reflected how he viewed his time with me, my husband and his older brother.

I could think of dozens of things the four of us did together – meals, movies, vacations. Yet I was forced to realize that our younger son did not feel those activities qualified as something he felt were memorable or meaningful. They had no value for him, certainly not like they did for me apparently.

Starting monthly Family Day

Starting that very month, we decided that each of us would take turns picking an activity that we would do together as a family for one day. And it would be just the four of us – no more and no less.

Some rules were in order, as I could foresee my older son suggesting that we go sky-diving or bungee-jumping. It couldn’t be something that one of us was deathly afraid to do, and it couldn’t be risky or overly dangerous (a little adrenaline was acceptable though, we decided). Also, it couldn’t cost a fortune or take longer than one day.

Since it all began with him, the first month was given over to our eight-year-old, who picked, from a list of choices, a day at the Vista Water Park. I don’t usually like water parks, but this was his day and his choice and our first embarkation on a new family tradition, so I acquiesced. I even went with him down the slides and tubes as often as he wanted, and the four of us had a fine time.

The following month our 14-year-old took his turn and had us spend the day rock-climbing at Vertical Hold in Mira Mesa. It’s not the way I usually spend my Sundays, but it was fun and we did it together as a family. And, yes, I made it to the top of the wall – twice. I didn’t scamper like the kids, but I did it.

My turn

The following month, my husband chose a picnic lunch and a hike in Cuyamaca. It was a gorgeous day, and we enjoyed a panoramic view from the top of Stonewall Peak, followed by friendly snowball fights all the way down.

This month it is the eight-year-old’s turn again, and he is excited about his choices. He is mulling over whether to go to the zoo, Chuck E. Cheese (ugh), a movie, or simply to stay home and play cards for an afternoon (Euchre is his favorite card game and he could play it for hours).

Balancing

For in truth, once I let go of my denial, he was right – from his perspective, there was a void and we really didn’t do all that much as a family. But now we do, thanks to his insight and wisdom and ability to express his thoughts. And we are all enriched as a result.

How about you? Are there activities or things you do as a family to draw you closer? Do you have regular rituals that bring kids and parents together? If so, please write in. We would love to hear your experiences and ideas.

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