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by Tara Bone, contributing writer 

As parents, we love our children. We spend our days driving them to school, practices, lessons and a myriad of important extracurricular activities. Then there is the non-extracurricular activities of homework, chores and eating (ah, dreams of mealtime togetherness). In all of our driving and doing, can they feel our love, or do they feel the anxiety of getting to the next scheduled event? Am I the only mom out there throwing after-school-snacks at my kids in the minivan as I speed down the road in pursuit…of what?

These questions have been on my mind as I examine 2015 and look toward 2016. Last year was turbulent in the world and difficult for many families touched by heartache. It is in this context that I wonder if at the end of the day my kids know I love them. What quality time are we spending together in this unpredictable and fast-paced world? Life is fragile and fleeting.

Mother and son dressed up for a play performance

Being active is good, but there has to be balance. In 2016, as a “family first,” our family is going to take back family time and dare I say it — cut and combine some activities. Yep, we are going to say “no” to busyness and “yes” to family time. Before you stop reading because you think I’m crazy and need to step down from my soapbox, know that I have thought about this a lot. During my average 1.5 hours of daily-drive time, I keep a minivan stocked with water bottles, peanut butter, loaves of bread and many clean athletic socks — I’m desperate!

So we’re going to prioritize and cut, and then see what activities we can do together. For example, my six year old wanted to participate in a play with me, so we auditioned for A Christmas Carol and spent a lot of time together rehearsing. It was a wonderful experience, and there was something special about setting a goal together and working to achieve it. Going out on that stage, side-by-side, with nervous butterflies created great memories and a stronger bond between us.

I’m not advocating adding more things to your busy schedule, just taking activities you are already doing separately and doing them together. This year, read more books, prepare more meals and learn new skills together. Run, hike, swim or bike as a family. Choose a race and train for it. If you love music, play together. Craft, sew or paint. Who says adults have to stop learning? There are many online resources you can access at home.

In 2016, let’s take back our kids, park the minivan and make memories together.