My fourth child, Zechariah, was born in June of 2014. He was extremely needy and colicky. He cried every single time he was put down. He cried in the swing, the bouncer, the car, the stroller, the crib, absolutely anywhere that wasn't someone’s arms, particularly my arms. I was exhausted. I had three other kids (ages six, four, and two at the time), normal household tasks, and a husband with which to connect. Enter unexpected postpartum depression and I felt myself falling deeper and deeper down to where it was becoming harder to see the light. I felt trapped and suffocated by my home, my life. I needed to escape. So I did. It was only God's hand of protection and his amazing grace that I was able to make the decision to escape somewhere with my kids instead of from them. It was close.
One Sunday afternoon in late June 2015, the whole family was sitting at the table having lunch and my oldest son Judah mentioned that he wanted to go see the Statue of Liberty sometime. I said that it would be great to do someday and half-heartedly mentioned that I should take him sometime that week. Then Dan or I jokingly suggested I should go, that day. Take all four kids to New York by myself? But all of a sudden something shifted. I started to wonder why couldn't I go? Why not? Within a matter of minutes, I decided to start packing. My husband Dan never once, not even for a moment, said I was silly or shouldn't go. I went on-line, looked up the Statue of Liberty to make sure I could get tickets for the next day while Dan looked up hotels for me and all four kids. Within two hours the kids hopped into the car and we took off.
The trip was absolutely incredible. My kids had endured a difficult season of depression for me and yet they were so excited to be on this trip with me. The joy on Judah's face and hearing him say how he couldn't believe we were actually in New York made me cry. My kids wanted adventure. They wanted to know I wanted to be with them. To do things that were important to them. I felt more joy during that trip than I had in over a year. Joy in being with my kids, doing activities they chose and not just what I wanted to do. Joy in choosing adventure over the tasks at home like laundry and picking up toys things up. Joy in learning how to roll with the parts of the trip I didn’t expect. For instance, did you know that the New York subway system isn't really stroller friendly? I didn't. I really “enjoyed” lugging the double stroller over one shoulder, holding my one-year-old in my other arm and corralling the other three kids while walking up and down numerous flights of stairs in different subway stations throughout the day. But my kids and I learned how to embrace the chaos of it all. Yes, there were moments of tantrums and meltdowns but I was able to deal with it and not become irritated. That hadn't happened since I had my youngest child. None of the unexpected issues could compare with the laughter and fun we had shared.
It was as if Dan and I both somehow knew that I needed to do this without ever talking about it before or planning it ahead of time. God had used one of my kids, the very thing I had tried to run away from, to be a catalyst for choosing adventure.
This trip inspired something new in us. I decided to commit to choosing adventure. That summer, I took the kids to different parks in the area, went to water parks all the time, went back to New York with Dan, the beach for a day, and Solomons Island. Some days went great. Other days were epic failures. But we still tried.
I was hooked. Choose adventure has become one of our family themes!
If someone were to ask me if I am an adventurous person, I would whole heartedly say “No way!” Choosing adventure is not something that comes naturally for me. I have to remind myself to choose adventure over the other easier options, the ones that require less thought or effort, the ones that involve any aspect of taking care of my home. I am also a mom who loves sending my kids to school so I can have a break from them. I crave silent, chaos free moments. I do everything I can to avoid going to the grocery store, or any errand really, with all four of my kids. And yet, over the past couple of years, I have discovered that I LOVE having adventures with my kids. It didn't start out that way. In fact, my choosing adventure sprang from a moment of complete desperation, from me needing to escape my house.
The beginning of this past August, I started to think about my grandfather in Texas and how he had not met three of my four kids. I really wanted them to be together as my grandfather isn't doing great. That sparked the idea for me to drive down to Texas. I went back and forth for a little bit on whether or not I really wanted to do it and even if I felt like I could. I made the decision to actually go for it about a week before I left. When I saw how long it would actually take to drive to Texas I randomly thought that I should turn it into an opportunity to see more of the country as I hadn't really traveled much in the midwest. My trip to Texas became a 13 day and 3,500 mile road trip. We visited nine cities in seven states! Dan thought I was crazy but it’s one of the highlights of this past summer.
One of the most important things I have realized about myself is that being adventurous with my kids is my “sweet spot”. I thrive in those moments. I have no choice but to be present with my kids because I have nothing to do other than be with them. Sometimes the adventures are things specifically for the kids but other times they are something I want to do and I simply take them along. Most of the time there isn't a lot of planning ahead of time. There is beauty in learning to live in the moment. I started to learn that I had to say no to certain opportunities because they would prevent me from being able to be spontaneous and have adventures with my kids. At the end of the day, my husband and my kids are who I want to invest in most right now. I am constantly stuck between the need to have a break from my kids and the need to be with them on an adventure. It is a difficult tension to wrestle with, but it's worth walking through when you see how it benefits your famlly.
As we approach this holiday season, most parents are looking for a way to “simplify.” I want to encourage you to embrace adventures, to maximize the moments with your kids! Here are a few tips on how to embrace adventure with your kids.
- Start small. Start with trips to Great Falls or someplace you don’t normally go. You don’t need to start with New York (in fact I might suggest you don’t start with New York- ha!).
- Don’t think too much about the details. Just go, things have a way of working out.
- Embrace the chaos, the kids will melt down at some point. The hotel will be sketchy. You’ll get lost. Insects will invade your car. This is what makes adventure adventurous.
- Go at your kid’s pace. Be careful about over planning or putting too much in your agenda. I knew there was no way I was going to bring my crazies into an art museum in New York. That would just be bad for everyone.
- Be in the moment. Such a cliche, but these times are what your kids will remember. Enjoy it with them.
- Create margin in your life. If every night and weekend are spoken for, then there won’t be time for spontaneous moments with the family or random weekend getaways. (That being said I do love a weekend staying at home and doing nothing with the family.
- Leverage the younger age. As your kids age they will become busier and will be less interested in jumping in the car and going with you. Take advantage of the time when the kids are young.
- Embrace the unknown, don’t worry too much about the details.
- Be okay with some failures. Not everything will be perfect.
I can’t want to hear all about your adventures!
Tiffani Hampton is married to Dan and they have four kids (Judah, Izzy, Kelila, and Zechariah) as well as a new puppy! They attend the Ballston location. Before deciding to stay at home with the kids she was a NICU nurse. Tiffani loves good food, movies that make her laugh, watching soccer, baking cakes, and spending time with her family and friends.