The pressure to do is one that rests heavy on all parents. We plan that big family vacation to Disneyland. We put everyone in the car and drive like a madman through traffic to make it to that special dinner on time. We put everyone in their least comfortable clothes and pose them for that awkward photo.
Dance recitals. New Year’s Eve parties. The pumpkin patch. Cake walks. Parades. Fundraisers.
Why are we doing this, kids will sometimes ask. And the answer is always something like: Because we’re a family. This is what families do.
But it’s worth always remembering that you can just be a family, anytime and anywhere. That’s what Jerry Seinfeld was talking about when he compared “quality time” and “garbage time.” It’s perfectly fine to just sit on the couch and be a family, you know. You don’t have to get dressed up or plan some complicated outing. Being a dad is not only what is well-captured in Instagram photos. It’s also hanging out. It’s also just sitting in the car, eating fries from McDonalds together. It’s also kicking a soccer ball in the backyard. It’s going for a run together. Or it’s putting together Legos with the youngest while Mom and the older kids watch TV.
It’s worth saying again: You can be a family anytime, anywhere. In fact, the most meaningful moments are when you are just being. When you’re together, and that’s enough. When you’re not going somewhere and don’t want to either. When everyone is present, in every sense of the word.
These are the experiences that are both cheap and rich. And you can have them much more often, if you choose.