“Let’s have a picnic.” they said.
“Okay, where?” I asked.
“In the driveway?” they yelled as they ran to collect some blankets.
The driveway, I wondered. Why the driveway?
Sometimes I make life a lot harder than it needs to be. My daughters wanted a picnic and knew that a picnic was less about being somewhere special rather than being outside. A picnic is about eating food someplace new. It’s about having the sun shine on your arms and the wind cool your skin. A picnic is about laying down and imaging clouds as pirate ships and carnival elephants. A picnic is simple.
It’s not just picnics that we over complicate. We think that that we need to do stuff for them, get stuff for them, and prepare other things for them. Our family has had an avalanche of toys from Christmas morning and March birthdays along with the occasional surprise or Easter stuffed animal. We do all these things for kids because we feel like that’s what being a good parent is.
It’s time to start filling our summer calendars with camps and vacations. Planning day, weekend, and week-long trips. We need to go to the library, to gymnastics, and to summer camps. We need toys and trips, but do we always?
Sometimes my kids ask for cereal, and I don’t just give them cereal. I list the other breakfast options they can have; toast, oatmeal, other cereal choices, instead of just going with the simple option they want. This is the picnic metaphor I don’t often see, simplicity.
Simplicity isn’t a weakness of picnics or anything else, it’s a strength.
I have some wonderful memories of the picnics I’ve had with my daughters. The first picnic was in the summer of 2008 when my oldest daughter could barely sit up and our labradoodle ate the sandwiches I made. We had another a year later when my daughter ate almost all the crackers and dip I had made for our family. Last summer I had a picnic with both daughters in our swing-set and it was windy and we pretended we were on a ship. Later in the season we had one where we all fell asleep on the blanket after eating and woke up two hours later.
Each of these picnics was simple and wonderful, I try to remember that these two things go together, like peanut butter and Nutella (our favorite picnic meal).