Anticipating the Fun

By Diane Stark

Anticipating the Fun

“How many more days of school do we have left?” My six-year-old son, Nathan, asked in mid-May.

“Three more weeks, Honey,” I said, “and then it’s all summer, all the time.”

He grinned. “Can we do those Bingo Cards like we did last summer?”

My heart smiled at his request, but before I could answer, my 13-year-old daughter, Julia, piped up. I already knew what she was going to say.

“Mom, remember last year when you and I stopped at Starbuck’s for cotton candy frappes and we sat outside, just the two of us?” Without taking a breath, she continued, “And you had a notepad in the car so as we drank our frappes, we brainstormed a list of fun activities to put on our Bingo Cards? It was so much fun, just thinking about all of the great stuff we were going to do that summer.”

“I remember, Honey. That was a great day.”

“It was seriously almost the best part of the whole Bingo Card, and the summer hadn’t even started yet. Can we do it again this year?”

I grinned and nodded. “Of course.”

“I want to make my Bingo Card at McDonald’s,” Nathan said. “Can we do that, Mommy?”

I nodded again, excited by their enthusiasm.

Making Summer Fun Bingo Cards has become a tradition at our house. It’s the easiest thing – and full disclosure – it wasn’t even my idea. But my kids absolutely love it.

Every May, I print one blank Bingo card for each of my kids. I’m sure there are many of them out there, but here’s the link to the one I use: http://amysfinerthings.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Summer-Bingo-25-1.pdf. I help my kids fill in each square with a fun activity they’d like to do this summer, and then we put a sticker on the square after it’s completed.

The activities range from big, planned-out events like going to the beach or the water park to small, spontaneous things like cooking with Mom or having a water balloon fight. We buy prizes at the dollar store, but when the kids get a Bingo, they feel like they’ve already won. This will be the fourth summer we’ve done the Bingo Cards and my kids have grown to love the tradition.

But this year, the kids were adding a new element. This idea of going somewhere special to brainstorm ideas for their cards was something new. Yes, it happened last year at Starbucks with my daughter, but that was a spontaneous thing. This year, she wanted to plan it that way.

And I realized that it was all about building anticipation. She wanted to imagine the fun she’d have before she had it. Because that makes the fun, well, more fun.

It might sound silly, but I do the same thing. Last January, my husband and I took a cruise with some friends. A month before we set sail, we invited them to our house for dinner so that we could book our shore excursions. We could have done it via email or over the phone, but getting together was so much more fun.

When we decided to book the parasailing trip, I could feel the butterflies already. And when we chose the excursion that would take us horse-back riding on the beach, I grinned, knowing I’d be checking something off of my Bucket List.

It was all about anticipation. Vacations are amazing, but they are always over too quickly. Enjoying them before they happen makes the fun last longer.

It reminds me of the Prudential insurance commercial where they give people blue and yellow magnets to show events that might happen in their lives. The blue magnets are negative things, and the yellow magnets are positive events. The board where people displayed past life events was a good mix of blue and yellow, but the board showing events they anticipated happening to them in the future was almost all yellow.

Obviously, the point of the commercial is to show that we need to plan for the “blue” events in our lives by buying Prudential insurance.

But I love the optimism of the whole thing. Realistically, life is a mix of good and bad things, but the people in the commercial only anticipated the positive events. As a serious Polly Anna, rose-colored glasses kind of girl, this commercial makes me smile.

It reminds me of my own family.

My kids are anticipating a great summer. They aren’t remembering that last summer it rained when they wanted to play outside. They aren’t remembering the days that they argued over which board game to play or that Dairy Queen ran out of their favorite Blizzard topping. They aren’t remembering the days that I was too busy to play with them or how many times they complained about being bored.

Nope, their summer is full of yellow magnets: Trips to the pool and the movie theater, running in the sprinkler, eating popsicles on the front porch and grilling out on the back deck. Having friends spend the night on a Tuesday and staying up all night for a movie marathon.

Even going to Starbucks to enjoy a cotton candy frappe while they plan that great summer.

I love their optimism.

My kids have taught me that one of the best parts of summer vacation – of anything good in life, really – is the anticipation.

I’ve learned to enjoy the fun before the fun actually happens. This means printing a photo from a resort’s website and taping it to the bathroom mirror, in the hopes of going there someday. It means promising an after-dinner surprise at the breakfast table and spending the whole day listening to them guess what it could be. (It’s almost always ice cream, but they guess anyway.)

And yes, it means posting Summer Fun Bingo Cards on my fridge a full three weeks before school is even out for the summer.

It’s all about the anticipation.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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