The childhood bucket list

The childhood bucket list

Lots of people have bucket lists.

Climbing Mount Everest, riding a hot air balloon, sky diving — actually those are on my things-I’d-never-do-in-a-million-years list.

I have kept a bucket list of sorts for my kids. Not big things, just simple joys of childhood.

I still remember taking my son to a neighborhood playground when he was, oh, maybe 5 months old. I had watched so many moms and dads playing there with their children that I couldn’t wait until he was walking, crawling or even sitting up. I put him in the little swing and pushed him gently as he sort of slipped down in the seat. But we were both happy.

Check one item off the list.

Besides the obvious — hearing their first words, seeing their first steps — there were other bucket-list milestones.Blog Photo

Our annual trip to the pumpkin patch — taking the traditional pumpkin photos, eating apple doughnuts, getting lost in the corn maze, dodging the late-summer bees (wait, not that last part).

Toddler music classes, where we’d sit in a circle and sing songs — or, in my son’s case, sit there terrified but then sing every song word for word once we got home.

Joining other parents on Saturday mornings or summer evenings for those first soccer matches and T-ball games. Nothing cuter than watching a swarm of 5-year-olds chasing a ball around the field or running the wrong way on the bases.

I’m realizing, with some regrets, that the clock may have run out for a few items on my list:

— Bus rides: When the kids were little, and I was looking for inexpensive outings, I thought it would be fun to take them on a bus ride around town. We could just sit and look out the window together, or ride to the park or the mall and have a treat. Somehow we never got around to it.

— Halloween parties: Our kids always wanted to host one, complete with a haunted house, scary games and spider-shaped treats. Somehow we always had a conflict, or it fell on a weeknight, or we didn’t have time.

— Skiing: We wanted our kids to learn to ski at an early age, and planned to take them to Wisconsin or Colorado on a winter holiday. Somehow other things got in the way.

— Backyard tents: We are not a camping people, but sleeping out in the backyard is one of those childhood rites of passage. Somehow we never got around to it. Could be that whole possum-raccoon thing.

— The swing set: I always thought I’d get them a big play set or build a cool treehouse someday when we saved up the money. Somehow it never happened.

As I was making up these lists, though, I realized how many items we have checked off our bucket list.Blog Photo

Hosting a lemonade stand. Check. Eating lunch at the American Girl store (yes, I caved). Check. Running a 5K. Check. Building snowmen, jumping in leaves, riding roller coasters: Check, check and check.

We may not have a fancy treehouse or swing set, but we did have a slide and a small inflatable pool (for a couple of years, until it killed all the grass). Besides, we went to the park constantly, and some of their friends have treehouses. (And they’re still lobbying for a trampoline.)

We may not have camped out in the backyard, but we’ve hosted myriad sleepovers and built lots of tents in the living room.

We may not have gone skiing, but we’ve taken our kids on several beach trips and even to a Wisconsin Dells water park (yes, caved again). Summer is just easier.

We may not have hosted a Halloween haunted house, but we’ve had chili suppers and pumpkin-carving parties. And we went to a truly spectacular haunted-house party at a friend’s home a couple of years ago.Blog Photo

My husband has made progress on his own childhood bucket list (for himself as much as the kids). So far they’ve managed to take in a World Series game, the Master’s golf tournament and annual NCAA tournament games and hit countless major league baseball parks. I believe more plans are in the works as we speak.

As for that bus thing: My kids’ first big field trips were in third grade, when they got to ride a bus to Springfield. It was just a school bus, but I think the ride over and back was as much fun for them as the tourist sites. And the fifth-grade charter bus trip to Chicago, when they got to bring their Nintendo/iPod/device of the day? Heaven.

So while I can’t exactly check that off my list, they can cross it off theirs.

I suppose that’s part of this whole parenthood thing — experiencing as much as you can together and taking joy out of their joy when you can’t.

It’s not too late for some of the bigger items on our list, like Washington, D.C., which we covered this summer; Niagara Falls; the Grand Canyon; and hiking in the mountains. Or maybe skiing? ...


 Julie Wurth writes about kids and families and covers the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Leave a comment below, or contact her at 351-5226, or

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ErinMB wrote on October 14, 2014 at 9:10 pm

You have a great list! I didn't ski until I was 19 and love it, so the kids still have some time for that one :)

Sari wrote on October 15, 2014 at 9:10 am

I love your checklist!!  I also love the picture with sleeping bags everywhere :)

It's never to late to add or modify the list.  I'm all for a ski trip - you have family in Colorado now! 

LaraK wrote on October 16, 2014 at 4:10 pm

What a great chronicle of your hopes for your kids' childhood and what you did and didn't get to do. I can so relate to what you say. And I like how you're able to look past what you missed to appreciate what you did accomplish with your kids.

I agree, it's never too late for some things.