Years ago I sat in a meeting discussing family activities, in which a seasoned mother shared a story about her daughter. She told of a time her daughter didn't want to go and play at a friend's house after school because she was afraid she might miss out on something fun going on at her own home.
I remember very little about the specific family activity ideas shared that evening, but I have never forgotten that story. Although my children were very young at the time, I committed there and then that my children would always be thrilled to come home after school.
OK, so that hasn't always happened like I planned. Often times my children come home to a list of chores waiting for them, or they walk in the door greeted by me on the phone motioning for them to be quiet, or they enter the house only to be asked to re-enter in hopes that the backpacks and shoes won't be strewn about in the same way they were the first time they entered. Some days I'm engrossed in a project and can barely manage a "How was your day?"
And then there are those other days. Those days when my children's faces light up as soon as they walk into the kitchen and lay their eyes on the piece of paper taped to the pantry door. As soon as my children see the paper, they know they're about to embark on a treasure hunt. Suddenly the ordinary routine of coming home from school has a little extra fun added to it.
The clues for the treasure hunt are never anything more than a few words thrown together simply because they rhyme. These clues lead my children all around the house and — depending on the weather — outside.
There is nothing quite like seeing children race around together in search of what they know will rarely be anything more than a simple after-school snack. But really, who wouldn't want to find a plate of cookies in the bathtub, or a box of crackers in the piano bench?
Things don't always go smoothly. We have yet to have a treasure hunt without hearing one of the children say "Slow down, you're going too fast" or "You're mean; you said I could read the next clue." But despite this, everyone still really enjoys the activity. Even my teenager still follows along — albeit with a lot less enthusiasm than she used to.
You'd think based on the reaction my children give me when they see a treasure hunt is planned, that I'd choose to do them more frequently. But the truth is, I don't do them as much as I should. It's possible that some days I'm not as ready to welcome them home as others, or that I'm too worn out and tired to start rhyming words and scattering clues. Really though, I think I spread out the treasure hunts to keep them special. I do it to keep them wondering if today will be the day that they'd miss out on something exciting if they didn't come straight home.
Most days are ordinary come-home-from-school-and-begin-the-typical-after-school-routine days. But every once in a while, a little extra comes along in the form of poor poetry and an after-school snack. And quite suddenly an ordinary day is not quite so ordinary.
Place a box of crackers on a closet shelf, or a plate of sliced apples on top of the washing machine and send your children searching. You might just find a few smiles and laughter thrown in an otherwise very routine day.