As parents, I feel like we are constantly inundated with media letting us know how we can be better parents, what we’re doing wrong, and how we can make our children healthier and happier. I also feel that these blog posts and articles about how to be the perfect parent just make it more stressful than ever – and more likely to make us all feel like failures. My main focus in the sea of parenting “dos and don’ts” right now is just trying to make the limited time I have with my boys more “quality time.” Hmmm, trying to get more family time seems to be a theme from prior posts.

The biggest hurdle is finding time – to be honest, it’s finding time when we’re not exhausted. I work full-time. My commute is usually 1 hour 15 min (give or take). I am away from home from 7 am to 6:30 pm Monday to Friday. At the moment, my wife works 8 hours shifts on weekends and 2 (sometimes 3) weekdays. The weekends are usually 5 am-1 pm shifts, so she’s up at 3:30 am. Even if she’s home at 1:30 or 2 pm on weekend days, she’s not exactly ready to go on any major excursions. I am on the city Board of Education plus the committees/obligations that spin out of that commitment. The boys have baseball or karate or Cub Scouts or whatever else they want to dabble in.

To be able to find time with ALL 4 OF US together, is a challenge. It can be 6:45-8 pm 2 nights per week and maybe 6 hours spread out over the weekend. It’s the time in which we are trying to give more of ourselves, without breaking ourselves – or breaking the bank.

I don’t believe that we need to make everything ridiculously spectacular or extraordinary. I don’t believe we need to spend a fortune for every adventure. But I want to do things with them that they appreciate, remember and allows us all to enjoy the time together. It’s sometimes the ordinary moments that can be the most quality-filled. However, with two boys who can bicker like crazy and launch into out-of-control antics at any given moment, it’s not always easy.

There are 2 things that we try to do with the boys beyond the usual just hanging low on the couch – Game Nights and Mystery Rides.


I’ve posted about Family Game Night before. And we’ve been keeping up with the tradition for the most part. Sometimes, it can be a little competitive and poor sportsmanship can be exhibited.

They ask for Family Game Night and get excited about it. Right now, it’s mostly Mastermind and Connect 4 Launchers. But we make sure that we have new games for Christmas and special occasions and keep enough in the house to have variety. We’ve been pretty good about doing it once a week, but it varies depending on what’s going on in our world.


A dear friend once told me about “mystery rides” that she did with her kids. It stuck with me, because they are just special or just a few hours with the family that adds a little excitement based on the mystery of it. You throw the kids in the car, tell them you are going on a “mystery ride” and just take off, refusing to give them too many hints.

Pretty much, it’s just something different. It doesn’t have to be a super amazing place, just something they didn’t expect. Of course, with 2 energetic boys, it usually needs to be something with a little high intensity. For example, not wanted to do a huge expensive party for Andrew’s 7th birthday, we did a “mystery ride” party and brought 6 of his friends for a little adventure. As we pulled into the destination, the entire minivan erupted with crazed and ecstatic 7-9 year olds. (See my blog post about it)

For Andrew’s birthday this year, he wanted a sleepover with a tiny group of friends, but still wanted to do something special. Since they boys have had spectacular attendance at school, I asked if Andrew wanted to take a day off school and do a mystery ride on his actual birthday. It didn’t take much convincing to get a “YES!” My wife already had the day off and I actually took a personal day! The day of the ride, his 9th birthday, was a bad weather day and we probably shouldn’t have headed out in the snow on treacherous roads, but it didn’t seem like a crazy risk.

I took the boys (yes, I brought them both) to this place. It’s called “It”. So, the entire 1+ hour car ride, my newly minted 9 year old kept saying “what’s the name of the place? It? You’re teasing? Seriously, what’s it called?” It was akin to a “who’s on first” skit.

Picture owned by H. Robinson

Picture owned by H. Robinson

On a snowy school day, it ended up being perfect. We had the place practically to ourselves and for $30, Andrew had 2+ hours of exhilarating entertainment. He went from being cautious in the beginning, turning away from the bungee jump in the first 30 minutes, so zip lining 6 times and after 2 plus hours, getting up the bungee platform and jumping within only a few seconds’ hesitation.

He was blown away. He announced it was the “best day ever” and showered us with hugs and kisses. Now, my son is not full of compliments, ever. He challenges us and sometimes even seems to lack empathy or understanding of showing appreciation. On the night of his birthday, after our day at IT, he sat down at the kitchen table and wrote an in-depth story to share with his classmates, with a cover and all. At the very end, he wrote in the bottom corner “#bestparentsever”.

While I do understand that he may only be saying that because he had a fun day out of school, I’ll take it!