The things that make a person a good mom or dad always seem a little boring to me. I can do them. I can cook nutritious meals and brush little teeth and make itty bitty kiddies feel safe and cuddly. (I can put the fear of Mom into a teenager, too, Buddy. Just try me.)
But I never wanted just to be a good mom. I wanted to be an AWESOME mom. Our participants at SpouseX San Diego had exactly the same idea. They wanted to create awesome memories for their kids. Here are some of their ideas for being an awesome parent on the cheap.
1.Local see, local do.One of the great things about military towns is that they all have different museums. A couple of our San Diego participants mentioned how the museums in Balboa Park offer Residents Free Tuesdays | Balboa Park on a rotating basis.
Find out which museums near you have inexpensive family memberships or free military days. I personally have spent hours in the San Diego Model Train Museum at Balboa Park, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. I took a lot of pictures at these places so my kids think they are cultured. Oh, yeah. That’s what I was doing with all those squirrelly preschoolers. Cultivating them.
2.Beach—it’s what’s for dinner.If you are a landlocked military family, we feel for you. But when you are lucky enough to live near a beach you know it is not just for summer afternoons. Beaches make for awesome winter walks, blustery deployment picnics, enchanted places to dig giant holes and draw pictures of surfers.
I had one of my most awesome mom moments when I accidentally took my sixth grader to a nude beach. I’m still hoping he thought that was just a really ugly bathing suit that one guy was wearing.
3. Sea World loves military.Right at the top of everyone’s list at Spouse X was the Sea World Waves of Honor program. It permits any U.S. active duty military, activated or drilling reservist, or National Guardsman to one complimentary admission for military personnel and as many as three direct dependents. Even if you don’t live in San Diego, this offer is also good at your local Sea World, Busch Gardens, Aquatica, Water Country USA, Sesame Place or Adventure Island.
4. Get back to nature.The base rec centers in the San Diego area got kudos from our crowd. The Big Bear Recreation Center north of San Diego offers camping, fishing, mountain biking and hiking in the summer, skiing and snowboarding in winter. Don’t all Marines love camping? In snow?
5. Go old school and stay home.Our Spouse X participants said that you can’t really beat the things the imagination invents—backyard games, picnics, forts! When you live in San Diego, all this stuff can happen outside (because the inside of your house is probably so small there is no room).
No matter what your weather is, packing a picnic basket complete with little cups and tiny plates can take up half the morning. Forts built of couch cushions always win the Awesome Parent Award—especially if somebody pops some popcorn to snack on inside.
6. Go new school and get your tech on.Deals from Livingsocial and Groupon got high marks from our crowd. Whether it was a deal on the laser tag or a Haunted Halloween tour or a Yoga hike, not only did our participants enjoy the deals, but they often sparked their imaginations just looking through selections.
7. Create your own secret 5 Star Parks tour.If you’ve got kids young enough to like a swing or a slide, you probably already know every park within walking distance of your house. But every military town has some public parks you’ve never seen before.
Look ‘em up online. Then draw your own Map of Secret Places. Black Mountain open space park offers one of the best views of the city—and the perfect place to fly a kite.
8. Commit your own Cinemasins.Sure, you can download that movie and park the kids in front of it at home. Or you can take the kids on base for a movie. Every military base has its little perks. At Marine Corps Recuiting Depot San Diego, movies are free. What freebies does your base offer?
9. Got band?Your musical taste might be completely satisfied within the bounds of your iPhone. But your kids may surprise you by going for something a little more in person.
Our Spouse Xers said that the MCRD band is always giving free outdoor concerts for one thing or another. While in town recently, I heard an amazing concert from the ceremonial band complete with dancing toddlers in the background amusing the Marine recruits. Shout out to the percussion section member who were having entirely too much fun on the job.
10. Frolic.A warm patch of grass, an automatic sprinkler system, these are the gifts of San Diego. Amazing how saying yes to the simplest things makes the day awesome for a kid. And makes you an awesome parent.
MCRD ceremonial band photo United States Marine Corps.
Sea otter photo Tyson Riniger/Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Skiing at Big Bear Photo by Cpl. Derrick K. Irions USMC
Sprinkler photo U.S. Army