Making an Adventure out of an Un-Adventure

Have you seen this article that’s currently in circulation about how Norwegians keep up their spirits through the long, dark, polar winter? When I read this, it occurred to me: you could replace “polar winter” with “days that you’re home-bound with your kid(s)” and have a compelling article about coping mechanisms for stay-at-home moms. If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you’ll know that I am a huge advocate for getting out, exploring, and having as many adventures as possible outside of your normal routines. And yet there are some days it’s simply not practical to get out due to sickness, an extreme case of the grumps, or just a long to-do list of stuff you need to do at home. So, rather than wallowing in the doldrums or the “Misery Olympics,” as the article puts it (and as seems to be the current trend in playgrounds and mom blogs everywhere these days), what if we steeped a good strong cup of tea, pulled ourselves together a tiny bit, and made our own fun? 

I’ve heard my mom say: “There is always something you can do.” I think what she means by this is that even in a crisis situation, you can manage to put a tiny bouquet of fresh flowers on your table, or show kindness to someone. Even on your most frenetic, spilled-my-entire-mug-of-coffee-everywhere days, you can put on a good album, or go outside and breathe fresh air for a few minutes. Even when you’re at your lowest point or your messiest, there is something you can do to beautify, to de-funk-ify, to encourage. And maybe that something is exactly the thing you need to get through–and not just survive, but make the most of the situation you’re in. I don’t mean to be overly sentimental about this: sometimes the days are just plain tough when there’s a small human involved. But having the tiniest mindset adjustment on those days–putting on an adventure mindset, in fact–can make the most miniscule but significant difference in your sanity. 

Here are a few tactics that I’ve been thinking about for making a very un-adventurous day into a little more of an adventure:

1. Put on really good music: an old, worn, favorite album (introduce your kid to the Beatles or The Smiths); something completely epic (the Braveheart soundtrack! A Mahler symphony!); cozy and peaceful grooves (Simon and Garfunkel?), or something brand-new. Lately I’ve been trying the latter: picking out a new band or artist and playing through their discography. Even if Sam and I never leave the kitchen, I feel like I learned something and maybe even expanded my horizons a little bit. 

2. Listen to something challenging, interesting, or intellectually stimulating. Sometimes when I’ve been conversing with a toddler all day (albeit a cute and interesting one), podcasts feel like a lifeline to the academic or professional world. Currently at the top of my subscription list: TED Radio Hour, The Accidental Creative, and Stuff You Should Know.

3. Build a fort. In your living room, with as many pillows and blankets you can find. Consider eating lunch in there. Which reminds me…

4. Eat somewhere unusual. I’ll be perfectly honest: on non-adventure days, nothing makes me feel more stuck, lonely, and detached from society than sitting at the kitchen counter indefinitely during Sam’s ponderous eating marathons. Bring the highchair outside, or move it into the living room. Go eat on the front porch or in the grass. Spread a blanket and have a picnic on the floor if you have to. (Or, if you have time, go out for a quick lunch together somewhere new). And, by all means, refer back to #1: turn on the jams. 

5. Do something for someone else. Write a quick handwritten note to someone and pop it in the mailbox (the little person can contribute a tiny drawing, or hand-crumple your note to give it character); whip up some cookies and bring them over to that sweet old man who works at the hardware store; leave flowers at a neighbor’s door; send a quick text to a friend to say you’re thinking of them and you think they’re awesome.

6. Learn one new thing. Sometimes (usually during the ponderous eating sessions) I’ll grab my iPhone and think, “What do I need to introduce Sam to? AH! He’s never seen a picture of a platypus, and honestly I can’t remember what they look like either. Sam, this is a platypus. Ha ha, what a weird looking thing!” (I love using our tech for stuff like this.) Suddenly a boring moment becomes a moment of learning and laughs, and it might even morph into an inside joke. 

7. Dress yourself. This sounds silly, especially if you’re not going anywhere. Let’s face it, though: you will inevitably catch glimpses of yourself during the day, and you might as well not have to see a zombie in passing. It might just mean putting on one nifty piece of jewelry, or your favorite band tee, but it actually helps your morale to know you look a little better than you might feel. 

8. Ignore Facebook. There’s no better way to feel like your life is lame–or to make it actually become lame
–than to get sucked into staring a screen while the precious minutes of your potential adventure slip away. 

9. Go on a mission. Sometimes “going on a mission” means taking yourself and your little person out for ice cream for no particular reason at 2 pm. Or cleaning as much of your kitchen as you possibly can in ten fast minutes (with an actual timer set). Or dropping everything for five minutes to go hunting for interesting rocks in your backyard. Or simply calling whatever you’re currently working on “your mission” and tackling it head-on. On that note…

10. Speak like an adventurer. I don’t mean that you should start talking in your favorite pirate dialect, or Norwegian. I mean that what you speak has power. So take courage, and speak with all the enthusiasm and joy and morale you can muster, even if you don’t quite feel it in your heart yet. Your words may pull your feelings up alongside them. On one of my first real outings with Sam, we trekked to Ikea, and–of course–at the end of the whole Scandinavian ordeal, our car wouldn’t start. I distinctly remember feeling like I had a choice: I could cry, I could lose my cool, or I could pick up the pieces of my morale and announce to Sam, “This is such a great adventure!” and troop back inside and show him what an escalator was, while we waited for our bailout. In the end, I did all three in succession, but I learned two things: 1) that five-week-olds adore escalators, and 2) that everything is more interesting if you simply name it an adventure, whether it’s being stranded at Ikea, giving birth 600 miles away from your hospital of choice, or being confined to your kitchen. 

Because, for a true adventurer, the adventure is wherever you happen to be.

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