Setting aside a 'Puffalumpagus Day'

When my husband and I married we wanted "the whole package"- house, kids, fancy cars, twice yearly vacations to Disney World. Ah, life would be grand.

We were determined to work hard and set up our lives exactly the way we wanted them, so we could start living our dreams.

It wasn't long before my husband was working six days a week in order to build up overtime pay. On his day off, he'd be busy catching up on yard and house maintenance. He was

rarely relaxed or in a good mood. He simply couldn't afford the luxury of time to spend with our children or me.

It got to the point where the girls now had a paycheck for a father and I had a paycheck for a husband. It was as

though the girls and I were stranded on an island and my husband was on the mainland arranging for supplies to be air-dropped to us. This was not our dream life.

Nobody was happy and everybody was tense.

One day I forlornly recalled some of our best times together in college. Occasionally, on exceptionally beautiful days, my then fianc and I would impulsively skip classes and go to the beach or a park. We'd be so excited about our stolen freedom. I wanted those days back and I wanted our children to be a part of them.

I proposed that we take one day as a family, on a whim, and play hooky from our tightly scheduled lives - take time to "smell the roses."

My husband nixed the idea immediately.

Didn't I know how much money he would lose if he missed one day of work? Did I want to put his job in jeopardy? Did I want to promote truancy and teach our children to be irresponsible?

Yes, no, and no. But I would not be deterred.

We would live at least one day to its fullest before the girls were too old and too busy with their own lives. I didn't care about lost money, the memories would be priceless. The job would still be there the day after our adventure. Our children could easily make up one day of schoolwork.

This would teach our children that quality time together is what family is all about, even if we had to steal that time.

I can't say if it was my logic or determination, but my husband finally agreed. We explained our plan to the girls. Of course, they loved the idea. Daddy insisted he pick the day. We'd make no plans on how to spend it until the day arrived. The girls insisted on giving it a name. They decided on "Puffalumpagus Day."

The mood at home changed. The girls made lists of fun things to do when the day arrived. I woke up every morning looking forward to my husband's proclamation.

Finally, one morning my husband declared, "Today is Puffalumpagus Day." The girls squealed with delight, and so did I. We went on a picnic, then to a movie. The day was full of love, fun, and closeness. It changed the course of our lives.

It was so full of precious moments that we decided to have more Puffalumpagus Days, and to reevaluate our entire lifestyle. We made changes here, cutbacks there, eliminated some solo activities and added more family activities. We quickly took control of our lives rather than allowing our day-to-day lives to control us.

We've created many Puffalumpagus Days since then. In the early years of Puffalumpagus, we celebrated three or four times in a year.

Sometimes we'd spend the day at an amusement park or at a miniature golf course. Some days we'd go on a nature hike, or play board games, or just sit around sharing stories.

One time we spent the entire day in the kitchen making homemade pizza. We never ran out of ideas or fun.

Today, our family has a treasure chest full of memories, hearts full of love, and absolutely no regrets. And the roses, by the way, smell delightful.

Parents: To submit a first-person essay on your own parenting solutions, send an e-mail to home@csps.com, or write to Parenting, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115.

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