I’m doing this thing with my kids this summer called “Mystery Tuesdays.” I stole it from Jen Hatmaker -- they do Thursdays in their family, but there are more free/cheap things in our town on Tuesdays, so BAM! Tuesdays it is.
So, on Mystery Tuesdays we go on an adventure, but the destination is a surprise until we get in the car. Then, a few minutes before we walk out the door, Dad accidentally blows the surprise. Sort of. I mean it’s happened twice. In the first two weeks.
Which is hilarious.
Anyway, last week it was POURING and I’d checked Regal Cinema’s summer matinee schedule -- they do $1.00 movies at 10am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, check it out! One of my kids’ favorite movies on Netflix was playing -- Mr. Peabody and Sherman. (Hilarious, I highly recommend it.) So, I decided that would be our Mystery Tuesday destination.
Now, taking my five year old and four year old to the movies is super fun. I dare you to find a cuter scene than little bodies watching the big screen, wide-eyed. But taking an eighteen month old is...different. And I had all three kids that day.
It went fine. I bought them snacks (totally negating the $1.00 movie), we only had to walk around once to keep the toddler happy, and we enjoyed the movie.
But when we got in the car, my four year old got upset about something and declared it “da worst Mystery Tuesday EVER!” Which I guess isn’t that big of a deal since it was only the second one we’ve done. But it still frustrated me.
I wanted to yell at her about being grateful. I wanted to manipulate her into feeling guilty for not appreciating our sacrifice (MOVIE SNACKS ARE EXPENSIVE, YO). I wanted to tell her how it hurt my feelings that she didn’t like what I’d worked hard for.
I probably could have done all three of those (maybe minus the yelling) in a "Godly way," but I knew I was more likely to do them in a selfish way. So I gave her a quick, calm explanation of why it was inappropriate to throw the whole morning out because the wind was blowing the wrong way, or whatever, and I dropped it.
I think I dropped it because I’m not a totally newbie parent anymore. I’ve learned (and am still learning) the difficult lesson that plans and reality don’t always line up. That doing fun things with our kids can easily become about us and our expectations, instead of being about the unit. Does that make sense?
I read a book about family disciplines (not like, behavior discipline but like disciplines as in the discipline of medicine) and it talked about the importance of family vacations. That it’s worth it to prioritize that time, even when it’s expensive, even when it doesn’t go as planned, even when an emotional preschooler declares it THE WORST. It’s important to prioritize that time because of the amount of family culture that’s created in such a short time. On vacation, you work on your family vernacular -- inside jokes, funny stories that will be shared FOR YEARS, and you simply face each other. Mystery Tuesdays aren’t a vacation, but I see them serving a bit of the same purpose. This is a discipline of ours. It is worth doing, even when it’s not fun or easy. It’s worth investing in our family even though we will continue to let each other down with our brokenness.
So if you find yourself aiming for fun and falling short, keep trying. Keep moving toward each other, even when things aren’t perfect. Take the trip, do the special date, let them ride the merry-go-round knowing full well that they might cry when it’s over. You can teach, instruct, train, and give grace even when the circumstances aren’t as you’d hoped. When we do this, we follow God’s example - we can love despite the brokenness and disappointment because He first loved us.
Find more from Kristi at her blog, And Babies Don’t Keep, where she encourages women to live in the freedom Jesus offers and shares many things thought would be fun as a parent but aren’t. (For example: stickers, library computers, and pillow pets. Ahem.)