Sunday, January 12, 2014

Don't call it a bucket list.

I took the kids to see "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"; it has been too long since I read the Thurber story so I didn't recall much of it, but the previews to the film spoke of the theme of taking the risk to live a fullness of life.  This, I know, is something I am trying to instill in my children.

That may seem strange - don't most kids have an impulsive nature to take a risk to do what they want?  Well, most of the time, but for much of my kids' lives, they didn't see an adventurous mom or family - they lived in a family that only played video games or went out to eat or shop.  Due to a specific circumstance beyond my control, we were put in a small box and not allowed to roam, except at someone else's discretion.

To understand how horrible that can truly be (more than just being forced to live in that small box), I have to explain that up until I was 22 years old, I traveled. I love traveling - I love seeing new things, meeting new people, and discovering all that this big blue marble has to offer.  By the time I was 17, I had seen petrified skeletons in Pompeii and two works of Michelangelo -- The Sistine Chapel and the statue of David - in Italy. I spent the weekend in a small casita in Rosarita, Mexico, and could see whales and dolphins swimming off the coast from the living room.  I had been to Canada, the beaches of the east coast, to Disneyworld, to Hawaii, to Nashville, up the Colorado Rockies and across the country from California to Chicago several times, one of which included the worst breakfast eating ever at a diner in  New Mexico.   I visited amusement parks, museums, art fairs, and Pow Wows.  I felt invested in life, and when college came, I threw myself into that adventure just as I had the others.

In the last three years, I have been called the "Disneyland" mom behind my back and to my face.  I want to hate that, but I have to recognize that the slur comes from a place of ignorance - of people who don't really know how to live and value life; from people for whom a different bar on a weekday night is a big adventure. I am now 40 years old, and for almost 20 of those years, what I did and how I did it was dictated by someone else, and I was not able to give my kids the fullness of an adventurous life as I wanted. I tried, and by the time my youngest was 5, we moved to California, where an abundance of adventure was only a hour away, any time we liked.  It was not perfect, because it was a bit few and far between, and since it was just me with the kids, I had to really juggle to make it happen ever.  But the kids were good and we took advantage of what we could - it was so limited, but I loved it and I loved engaging in my kids' sense of adventure.

Now that I no longer have a dictator sticking us in a box, we as a family are expanding our wings and doing things, having adventures, and finding a deeper meaning in life.  My oldest often asks, why are we doing this? (especially if its a very strange adventure, like the Dinosaur discovery center today), and I tell him, because we haven't seen it before, and we can.  I don't want my kids to be 40 and regret that they didn't have the fullness of an adventurous life with their family. It is probably my biggest regret.  I didn't stand up for the fullness of life for my kids.

But I am also their mom, and much of what I say goes in one ear and out the other, so I hope the travel, the adventures, the fullness speaks for itself. Yet, they are still children so the message can be lost. This is where films like Walter Mitty come in. On a large screen in full view, they see someone just passing through life, and missing out on it, until he is in his 40s, and then he has not one adventure, but two, and learns that those adventures provide knowledge, confidence, self-empowerment, and a stronger sense of self.  He seems to almost grow younger as movie progresses, and the look of contentment with life never leaves his face at the end of the film.  

I want my children to have that look.

When they decide to go to college, or take on a career, I don't want them to do it because they have to, as drudgery - I want them to see the challenge and adventure contained therein.  I don't want them to be like me, 40, and wondering why I let someone take that contentment away from me, then feeling like we have so much to make up for.  I tell the kids, there is so much life that we can experience just here, in southern California, and we are going to live it.  

So call me a Disneyland mom if you want, but that is your ignorance. It is actually taking the risk to feel the fullness of life, to do what we love, and I won't let my family miss out on it.


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