Ask Maxwell: What Are Three Things You’re Proud Of?

published Sep 21, 2021
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Credit: Maxwell Ryan

My daughter just started school in person for the first time in over a year and I’m feeling like time is flying. I miss her already. What are three things you’re glad you did with yours to make the time count?


Dear Delano,

My daughter just started school again (didn’t they all?!?!), but she just started high school and now isn’t coming home til after seven at night. On weekends she wants to get out and hang with her friends. She doesn’t need me anymore! I am not only not cool, I’m awkward, out of touch, forgetful, and painfully slow. Ouch. The days of her wanting me to read to her in bed are long gone, so make them count!

Which is why I liked your question. It made me think of at least three things I’m glad I did with her while she was younger that I know are deep inside her and are not only lovely memories, but they are also growing, parenting things that were priceless investments. And they made the time slow down. Here goes ….

Credit: Maxwell Ryan

1. Camping Out
Many years ago I read about how important it was for European families to go camping each year. More than just an affordable vacation, it was a part of their fabric for bringing their family together in a basic, fundamental way that served to provide strength and harmony at home the rest of the year. I took that to heart, especially living in a busy city like New York, which has too many shops and distractions.

While we didn’t do it as much as I would have liked to (I’ve got a bikepacking trip in the works for next summer), we started early camping in the yard each summer and then went on a few trips with our tent and sleeping bags that I’ll never forget. Once we went to Sweden and camped out at a friend’s friends house to celebrate Midsummer. Perhaps the best and biggest one was a one week rafting trip we did with a group through Desolation Canyon on the Green River. That one wasn’t a big hardship, but it was beautiful, hot and consisted of long slow days paddling down the river and then sleeping out under the stars. She still says it was the best trip she’s been on.

Camping breaks you down, simplifies your day and makes you depend on one another in ways that never happen in modern daily life.

Credit: Maxwell Ryan

2. Treasure Hunt Birthdays
These stopped just a few years ago, but another favorite tradition was putting together a treasure hunt for Ursula’s birthday party in September. The whole idea was to have good food for the kids and adults and then send the kids on a treasure hunt that would allow the parents to relax and chat for at least 30 minutes before they all came running back. It worked like a charm for both parties, and it was tremendously fun to plan with Ursula.

The best one was the Harry Potter Horcrux themed treasure hunt in which all seven Horcruxes were hidden and had to be found by clues included in envelopes (these are the seven parts of Voldemort’s soul that he’d split and hidden for safekeeping. Until the last one was destroyed, he would live forever). I purchased all the Horcrux items in various places like eBay, Etsy and Amazon and there was even a real sword lying at the bottom of deep wooden hot tub that could only be attained if one of the children dove to the bottom. All balked, but one did.

A very early one was a pirate themed hunt for the lost treasure of Captain Kidd (who was a real pirate who really did hide his treasure nearby). There was an old, stained map and a buried treasure that took quite a long time to pull out of the ground.

Perhaps it is just me, but I have to say that planning these, imagining them and then sharing that with Ursula as she got older was always a highlight.

Credit: Maxwell Ryan

3. Reading Aloud
This one is easy. Once you start reading to your child at night, it can go on and on for years and those memories and books are pure gold. It’s addictive too. You both look forward to it and as the years go by you drive through more and more interesting books, revisiting your own childhood along the way. We read through all of Harry Potter, Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Great Brain, The Penderwicks, Clementine, Ramona… on and on…. until we ended with THE HUNGER GAMES. Yep. I couldn’t believe I was reading this dark dark stuff out loud to my daughter, but she loved it and I could tell it was part of her growing up. We got through two of the books and then she didn’t want me to read aloud anymore. My time was done. She reads to herself now.

Best, M

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Maxwell Ryan is a father and was an elementary school teacher in NYC before founding Apartment Therapy. He’d love to answer your question: This piece was created for Cubby, our weekly newsletter for families at home. Want more? Sign up here for a weekly splash of fun and good ideas for families with kids.

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