"For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever."
- Henry David Thoreau
When we killed our television we expected some degree of adjustment. However, we weren't really hardcore TV watchers and could still see movies on the computer. Oh, the beauty of rationalizing! There is very little which describes the feeling of somehow not knowing what to talk about with someone that you have lived with for years. It wasn't an awkward silence but one which was much more confused. We seemed to be able to talk before, why couldn't we now? and what exactly did people really talk about? and why is it that neither of us never seemed to do anything interesting at all? Soon we ruled out complaining about work as being an option for discussion. Very shortly there after, talking about our son was ruled out as well. Eventually it became obvious to us that we were always watching other people do things on television rather than doing them ourselves. The question changed from "what should we talk about?" to "what do you want to do?"
Here is a list of some of the things we have decided to do now that we don't live vicariously through actors on TV.
Build a Catapult
Catapults are cool. This is an unalienable truth of existence. Boy, Girl, Young, Old doesn't matter. Catapults are even cool when they break windows or throw stuff into unwanted places. They are just fun, exciting, and flashy. We built an 8 foot catapult and now keep it in the garage (in pieces). A trip to this website and the hardware store and you can build yourself a smaller version. A link to "The Annihilator" is on there as well if you are feeling in need of propelling stuff over your neighbor's fence the way we were.
This is one that Jules and The Barracuda do together without me. The mystifying elements of dudeness are discussed as they do decidedly male tasks. As much as gender stereotyping isn't something I much agree with, there are elements of maleness I can't much argue with. This is time for The Barracuda to ask all those important questions such as, "How do I use a urinal?" or "Why don't we talk in the bathroom?" or "What do I do when I accidentally hit my crotch really hard on the playground?" when he is a bit older, "So there is this girl...."
Have Bonfires With the Neighbors
Go and meet your neighbors. We have awesome neighbors on both sides who have been incredibly helpful in all sorts of areas that we are lacking. Whether it is knowledge, tools, or just plain company they are always willing to help out. Bonfires are one of the best ways to just spend an evening relaxing and getting to know one another for both young and old. Dogs, marshmallows, and wine also help quite a bit.
As ridiculously Hallmark as it sounds, we play a lot of board and card games. Even something as simple as Crazy Eights can make for a night of fun in our household. Secondly, it means that we all have to sit around and interact. We watch our son get better at being strategic, at being tactical, at becoming a bona-fide game-shark. The Barracuda's excitement over the simplest things makes for a lot of warm memories and our personal family rivalry is a nice joking point to last for years. More than anything, it causes us to slow down and find gratitude in one another.
Make Ancient Spear Throwers
Atlatls are ancient weapons which have been found all over the world. Incredibly simple to construct and use, there are multitudes of YouTube videos and even a World Atlatl Association. Flinging three foot darts tens of yards is always up for some good fun.
Dance Like Michael Jackson
The Barracuda has loved to dance since before he could talk. Somewhere rhythm is in his blood. Now, we find various dance styles on YouTube and rock out. Michael Jackson is always a favorite. He is flashy, he is a male, he can DANCE! The Barracuda now dons his fedora and moonwalks around stopping to try the anti-gravity lean. I know the entire Thriller dance by heart. Dad gets down a bit, too, and makes mom smile like crazy. A hearty good time for all.
Learn To Rock Climb
Jules has been a climber or some time. After becoming a parent, the daredevil in you gets slightly quieter. This has not squelched the desire to go on family climbs however. Having been a climber straight from the get-go, The Barracuda is always ready to learn more about knots, get up into trees, and in general fill his head with wondrous images of sticky rubber shoes and five point climbing harnesses.
Become a Monkey
Once the basic knots are down, harness up and swing from the trees. It is WAY better than a tire swing, builds abs of steel, and it is a great way to work on family trust.
Time honored classic and still a hit to this day. An Uno game costs under 5 dollars at the store and can last through multiple kids with ease. Once taught, kids can play by themselves, with adults, with grandparents, with neighbors, at slumber parties, on and on and on. Not only that, unlike Old Maid parents actually still like playing it the thirty-thousandth time.
Fire Water Rockets
Much like catapults and Atlatls, water rockets seem to be awesome regardless of your age. Even when they break things, almost take your head off, never seem to fly straight, or cover you with water, they just keep getting cooler. We go to the park or take them out in the street to fire off with the neighbors. A simple YouTube or Google search can produce a multitude of results. Some dudes get really geeked out about it. Our water rocket was constructed from simple items at the hardware store and one quick stop to the tire shop.
A 5 gallon bucket lid and a Sharpie can become a great target when propped up on the couch. Nerf guns, squirt guns, cork guns, you name it they all work great even on rainy days. Secondly, target practice is something the entire family can have fun with. For an odd reason it just sucks you right in!
Construct and Ride in the Bike Box
Get out on a bike ride with your family and just see how much fun it can be. There is a childlike whimsy in riding a bike. With our Bike Box we can ride our bikes longer distances with heavier loads. Groceries, books, garage sale finds, our son and his bike, U-pick fruit can all fit in the Bike Box and we don't need the car in the city.
The Roller Rink
Hopefully there are some other 70's and 80's children out there that remember the awesomeness of the roller rink. Thankfully most towns still have one of these old gems quietly resting somewhere waiting to rediscovered. Often they are crazy cheap, still have the same orange wheeled skates with extremely long laces, play the music and lower the disco ball. Oh the cool points you can score at the roller rink by going backwards, bending down and grabbing up one leg, doing the chicken dance, performing a jump and not killing yourself. You can become a God to your children. It's exercise, its a flash back of nostalgia, it's just plain family fun.
It is all started from one anti-logging camp out. Now we go to the Food Bank. In the summer we rip up asphalt to create community gardens. We pull trash out of the local slough once a year. It's fun and contagious. It also shows kids that they can actually do something that matters regardless of their age. It also offers reasons to be grateful which are often forgotten and the feeling of goodness tends to become addictive.