I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to create extraordinary childhood experiences…and 67% of the execution grumbling, “they don’t even appreciate a damn thing! They’re complaining it’s hot or boring or too long and frankly…SO AM I!”

So much of the time I’m left thinking “Is this worth it?”

* And by “it”, I do not mean loving, nurturing and raising my kid. I just mean, all the rest of “it”.

So much of our lives are hum-drum and routine. And that’s okay. Routines feel good and help us get through life and education and whatnot. And while my kids prioritize surfing YouTube at any moment they can find, I know their life won’t be spent remembering that time they watched a dumbass video because they have extraordinary moments punctuating their childhoods.

This has included schlepping the kids to museums, historical tours, attending rallies, marching for causes, and doing anything that wasn’t what the kids chose to do. In every case, I anticipate hearing “can we leave? When is this over? I’m hot. I’m hungry. I have to poop.” about 17 times. And my frustration with their annoyance is always compounded by the fact that I wasn’t really having fun either!

Of COURSE we all want to just lay on a couch sipping bloody marys and flipping through our phones! You think I want to be out in this heat and humidity marching for human rights?

(I mean- let’s be real.)

But I know my soul is filled by waiting in line for the art exhibit, displaying my passion for human rights in marches, and learning from speakers at political rallies.) The sacrifice of dragging them from the every day to do something merely out of the ordinary, to recognize a holiday, a movement, a philosophy a passion a new feeling is how to create extraordinary childhood experiences. It requires no money. Just a little effort.

And sometimes, those efforts are highlighted ten-fold.

Last week, my kid’s first grade teacher read a book about gay pride and the “River of Pride” flag that has been carried in Pride parades around the world for the past few decades.

Last year, my kids’ school was fortunate to march and lead the carrying of that flag in the 50th Anniversary of the Pride Parade in New York City.

The kids really couldn’t have cared less about the historic significance of a 50th anniversary. The dozens of kids were ust happy to be together on a random NYC street for the afternoon. It was hot and humid, we had to wait for six hours (yes. Six hours.) because of delays in the marching. Luckily, there were lots of kids from the school so they basically entertained themselves.

During times like that 6-hour wait, you definitely wonder “is this really how to create extraordinary childhood experiences?”

And then we marched. And Daddy MIGHT have had a few beers and was overly-emotional and excited and loving and wanting to constantly squeeze the kids saying “Isn’t this amazing? The lights, the music, the LOVE all over the streets?”

“Yes, Dad. Stop hugging me. I just want to give high fives to the crowd. You’re embarrassing me. I want to be with the older kids.”

Fine. I’ll just keep taking videos behind you.

So anyway.

Last week, my kid’s teacher reads about the river of rainbow flag and my kid is the first to raise his virtual hand on the zoom conference call (ah, COVID-19 online learning…I can’t wait til this is a memory) and says “I touched that flag!”

“Really?” the teacher asked.

“Yes. I touched that flag and I’ve been to the Pride Parade three times!”

I wasn’t aware the parade even registered in his mind…but his teacher gave ME the gift of knowing that he did remember and he had absorbed and my efforts weren’t in vain.

Disclaimer – the first two times he witnessed the Pride Parade they were from the shady side of VERY sweaty streets filled with people exploding with joy. But each time I was also alone with my two kids and both trying to lift them high enough to see and calculating how many minutes I had before they complained of being thirsty or needing to poop.

It wasn’t care-free for me at all being in the throng with my two little kiddos. I was more preoccupied with them experiencing the revelry, rainbows and occasional nudity than I was in enjoying it, myself.

But each time, I think those efforts were exactly how to create extraordinary childhood experiences.

And each experience was followed by ice cream.

And returning to YouTube.