A pastor once encouraged me, as a father, to “invest in experiences, not toys.” While far from a perfect father, I am attempting to be really intentional about investing time in my girls during these early years and providing experiences they will enjoy and remember. On a regular basis these currently look like breakfast dates with Daddy, donut shop trips, adventures in the woods, or trips to the “pottery place” where they paint random small objects like coasters for my desk.
But I have also decided to give each daughter a special “Daddy trip” every other year. Last Friday, I took Eden out of school and took her to Chicago for a few days (she wanted to see The Wizard of Oz and go to the American Girl store).
Here are five lessons from those trips:
1) Involve them in planning
Each time I have suggested 2-3 places they may want to visit, and then I let them choose. I find hotels online and involve them in choosing where we will stay (I make the cheaper places sound much more awesome). We make a list of the restaurants we will go to and activities we will enjoy while on the trip.
2) Build their anticipation
Once we have a destination set, I show them pictures of where we are going and point out movies or books that feature the city or place. Each time, without my prompting, Eden and Evie have started a countdown to the trip, planned their outfits, and started packing.
3) Schedule two big things a day
I find it best to plan the day in two big chunks of time, something in the morning and something in the afternoon. Instead of having a schedule that is slammed every hour, a more relaxed and flexible schedule makes the trip less stressful. This trip looked like: American Girl Store and The Wizard of Oz for day 1 and Pizza and Navy Pier for day 2. We visited a museum on day 1 because we had enough time, but if American Girl had lasted longer – that would have been fine too.
4) Eat whatever they want
I tried to take Eden to a nicer restaurant in NYC (one I would enjoy), but neither of us really had a great time. Calamari and bruschetta just didn’t quench her palate. So now I just go with what they want, and everyone is happier.
5) The best conversations can’t be planned
At first I imagined moments where we would have great conversations, perhaps over dinner or sitting on a bench with a cup of ice cream. But I have learned that the best moments, the best discussions, can’t be orchestrated. They come when Eden or Evie has a question, when they are wondering about something, or when a random opportunity presents itself. For example last week, we had great conversations after a man in a restaurant asked me to pay for his meal and as Eden noticed the diversity on the train. Those types of conversations can’t always be planned; I just want to be prepared and focused when they occur.
Extended time on a trip gives ample opportunity for those conversations, and they are gold when they happen. Quantity of time makes room for quality of conversations.
Both Eden and Evie talk often about those 2-3 day trips. They have been well worth the financial and time investment. Experiences over toys.