You know that phenomenon when you have expectations about how things might be – and then they turn out a little different than you thought? I happen to be fascinated with that disparity between what we hope for and the actual reality of what comes to be. Now I know that is a somewhat sophisticated concept, but I think understanding and accepting (even enjoying) the difference is key to our overall flexibility as people – and our ultimate happiness.
And because it’s so important to our happiness, I think it’s never too early to teach children about it. Sure you’re not going to present it in a way that dwells on the abstraction, but there are some fun ways to practice playing with expectations vs. outcomes – and teach children to embrace the exciting surprises that reveal themselves in the unknown. Rather than simply making your retrospective photo book that summarizes the events of the summer, I vote for sitting down now and talking with your kids about what you hope the summer holds. Then circling back at the end of the summer and adding in all the detail about what came to be. Invariably – even if things didn’t always turn out exactly as planned – kids will start to recognize that the fun surprises were many, and the moments of letdown pale in comparison to the overall experience. Here’s how to do it:
The Anticipation List Sit down with your kids and ask them to make a list of what they want to do this summer – what would constitute a great vacation. Have them make a list of everything you plan to do from summer camp to family trips. Then have them add goals – things like learning to swim or riding a certain rollercoaster or even something surface like getting a new toy. Ask them to put stars next to things they anticipate to be highlights of the summer.
The Illustrations Then ask them to draw pictures of the fun they hope to have. Chances are they’ll draw lots of pictures of themselves eating ice-cream cones, holding a new toy, jumping in the pool, etc. – pretty standard wonderful kid-summer moments.
The Photo Book When you’ve got your list and drawings pulled together it’s time to create the framework of your photo book. You can either type the list right into whatever summer photo book design you choose, or you can scan and upload the handwritten list followed by the scanned illustrations. Your anticipation content will act as an intro chapter to the rest of your photo book.
The Actual Highlights At the end of the summer, sit down again with your kids and have them make a list of their favorite memories. Or better yet, keep a running list all summer long. Whether you add the memories to a note on your smart phone or keep track of them on a piece of paper on the front of your fridge, the actual highlights will likely be much more specific – and far more nuanced than the anticipated ones.
The Photos Add photos throughout your summer that represent real-time highlights. You can include all the pictures you love and would normally add to a summer memory book.
The Photo Book Afterword Just like in a real published book, your “afterword” – a mini chapter at the end of your summer adventure book – is a chance to reflect on the difference between what you hoped would happen and what actually happened. You can ask your kids questions about what was different about summer than they expected, and what was the same? Was it better than expected, worse than expected, or just different? Even if you don’t come up with any obvious profound revelations, the message will be clear: sometimes what you hope for turns out differently – but there will always be surprises that will far outweigh the moments of disappointment.
Happy Memory-Making! Happy Mixbooking!