I was tucking in my daughter before bed and, just before turning out the lights, she uttered four of my favorite words: “Do you remember when?” Like a magic portal, they transport you through time and polish the cloudy mirrors of distant memories. Suddenly small moments, chance happenings, long forgotten silly jokes, and unexpected events solidify into shared experiences that become monumental. They strengthen our connections as a family, as a community, and as humans.
In the Beil house, my wife Erin and I have been finding opportunities to build these small moments with our three young children, Maureen (8), Liam (6), and Killian (3), by creating new family traditions and fun experiences. Like all families, we have had our fair share of stresses, arguments, meltdowns, and just plain figuring out how to explain and navigate this new reality. In order to help bring a sense of normalcy to a chaotic situation, my wife and I started with a schedule of family theme nights.
Perhaps our most memorable night so far was our virtual trip to Walt Disney World. We set the mood by having the kids wear their mouse ears, grab their favorite stuffed animals, and load into their ride vehicles (three laundry baskets). We were instantly transported to Orlando, Florida. Mickey welcomed us to his kingdom, and we didn’t have to wait in line for any rides. The laundry baskets transformed into roller coasters; they rocked side to side on every turn, clicked and clacked up every hill, and provided the illusion of gravity as the kids screamed with their hands raised in the air all the way down! We were able to ride all our favorites, enhancing the experience with spray bottles for Splash Mountain, Nerf Guns for the Buzz Lightyear ride, and even Mickey Mouse ice cream bars to cap off a magical evening as we watched the fireworks kiss the sky!
Here are some other activities that we have enjoyed as a family:
Using resources like YouTube and Google Arts & Culture, we are able to visit art from around the world. As a family we have taken advantage of opportunities from The Met Museum, Museum of Natural History, and The Louvre, and we learned about a personal favorite of my daughter Maureen—Egyptian artifacts—as we virtually toured the Cairo Museum.
This is a popular day in the Beil house. We watch animal documentaries and shows on Disney+ and enjoy visiting animal sanctuaries and aquariums on YouTube. Our favorite place to visit virtually is the Georgia Aquarium, as they have an amazing YouTube channel with regular new content that includes sharks, alligators, whale sharks, and super cute penguins.
We love to travel and, since we are unable to, we explore the world from our living room. We reminisce on past vacations with photos and videos and watch travel documentaries and vlogs about places we would love to see. We have traveled to Hawaii, Germany, China, and Egypt all while seated on our couch and oftentimes we look for opportunities to include a special meal, treat, or dessert.
Legos are big in our house. We love to free build together, design new creations, and sometimes even bring our creations to life in stop motion animation. A new favorite family show of ours is the Lego Masters on Fox. We love to problem solve along with the contestants and to gain some creative art and design ideas from their solutions to each challenge.
There is nothing better than a fun family movie to end a busy week and like most families we are taking advantage of streaming services offering new movies and revisiting old family favorites while enjoying some delicious popcorn together.
I love hearing about the many new family traditions in each of your homes. And perhaps one day in the future, when this experience is a part of our distant history, our kids will have new meaningful memories, new connections, and be able to look past the uncertainty and appreciate the good as they speak those magic words “Do you remember when?” For me, when I think about my Peck community, I look forward to remembering that even though we were all so far apart, somehow, we still grew closer together.