The Coolest Thing Your Parents Ever Did

Take a moment and look at these photos of a father repainting his child’s room—from scenes of Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood to a cavalcade of DC Comics super heroes striking their famous poses.

Then answer the question: What’s the coolest thing your mom or dad did for you when you were a kid? It doesn’t need to be unique, or arsty or anything… just something special you recall from your childhood.

My answer: My parents loaded their four kids in a van and took them camping several times each summer. We mostly frequented state and national parks in California for hiking and fishing. I took this for granted until I met my wife, who had never camped or even rafted the river in her hometown. In my teen years, I fell in love with Lava Beds National Monument after two family trips there. It’s a downright remote and desolate locale offering self-guided lava tube caving.

Photo of a 5-year-old girl waving her arms and a flashlight inside a cave while standing underneath a hole in the roof that is shedding light down upon her. There is a motion blur in her arms. She is wearing a helmet.

The photo above is a coworker’s 5-year-old daughter, from a few years ago, waving her arms while standing under a cave “skylight.”

As a parent, I look forward to my daughter’s fifth birthday (an arbitrarily age threshold), when we’ll be packing the car so I can impart the same types of memories my parents gave me.

My wife’s answer: My father was in the military and was transferred from South Carolina to California when I was nine-years-old. Military families tend to move a lot, but this particular move took two weeks as we drove across the country in our station wagon.

Photo of the pea-green Wagonqueen Family Truckster from the movie National Lampoon's Vacation.

Along the way, we visited my parents’ numerous friends and played with their kids. Imagine going from stop to stop, meeting people you don’t know who are always happy to see you and celebrate with big dinners and cake, staying up late on sunny summer nights. In true National Lampoon Vacation style, one of the last stops on our trip was Disneyland. The only downside of such a trip is having your sister get carsick and throw up in your shoes.

So… What’s the coolest thing your mom or dad did for you when you were a kid? If you have a blog, blog it and drop us a link. If not, share a memory below.

Blog responses:


12 Responses to “The Coolest Thing Your Parents Ever Did”

  1. Kathleen says:

    Every year my dad would get a shamrock shake from McD’s for me. It started when I was young and continued through high school (during those “uncool” parent years) until I left the house. It was a simple gesture but the fact that he remembered every year still makes me smile :)

    February 4th, 2008 at 6:29 am

  2. Beth says:

    My dad was in the military and the first thing I thought of involved when we lived in Alaska. My mom took every single one of her clean sheets and made me and my friends a tent outside. I’m still not quite sure how she did it, but it was the coolest tent to play in. She left it up for 2 days for us and my friends and I were so bummed to see her take it down. She also used to throw a sheet over the kitchen table just so I could play underneath in my own personal tent. In the middle of an Alaskan winter, it rocked to get to play in a tent! :) I hope I live up to my mom’s coolness factor when my son gets a bit older!

    February 4th, 2008 at 7:11 am

  3. Stacey says:

    Reply posted here

    February 4th, 2008 at 7:14 am

  4. Jennifer says:

    We did many things that were cool. Probably the most memorable was our trip to Alaska. We drove from San Diego all the way to Anchorage with many fun stops on the way. We spend, I think, a week visiting my aunt’s family up there. It could have been more; time as a child tends be warped. Then we drove back, stopping at the world’s fair in Canada for 3 days before finishing the drive. Like I said, time is warped for the reference of length. However, I’m sure it was about 4 weeks for the entire trip. Looking back now, I have to say my parents were great in this whole trip; and a bit brave. Who else would take an 8 year old (me), a pre teen girl, and a teenage boy, stick them in a car together (they were smart enough to have a suburban), oh yeah, add a dog, pull a trailer, and end up not killing everyone in the process? Yep, can’t wait till I can do the same things with my kids!

    February 4th, 2008 at 7:23 am

  5. Caro says:

    So many cool things that my parents did, it’s hard to pick between experiences and more general stuff.

    We also spent a lot of time in the car driving around the country. When I was 16 we drove through the Pacific Northwest. I said that I was going to move there. When I was 24 I did. So all the driving helped me find somewhere I wanted to live and love.

    And my Mom knit me a much loved and very comfortable ladybug blanket…full size bed size. I love that thing still and I’m 34.

    But in a more theoretical sense, I love how my parents raised me on many many levels. Recently I talked to my Dad about how he explained Santa Clause to us. I couldn’t remember ever “finding out that Santa Clause wasn’t real” or feeling upset over the real/not-real debate. I found that my parents had explained to me at a very early age that anyone could be Santa. I was being a Santa when buying my grandparents a present, and they were being Santa’s when they bought us things. The explained that it was the spirit of the season to give gifts and that can be done by anyone. They also explained that some people believed in a jolly fat man who went from house to house, so that’s where the idea of one Santa came from.

    I distinctly remember believing that Santa might exist and watching for evidence, but it never bothered me to hear that he didn’t…because I knew they were wrong and that as long as I kept getting presents, there were definitely Santa Clauses’s out there.

    I’m not sure why this is so cool to me, but it is.

    February 4th, 2008 at 7:47 am

  6. Diana says:

    So my parents also did the road trip thing every summer– the 4-week trip in our 1-ton van (no mini in those days!) around the perimeter of the US was definitely a highlight.

    The other thing that comes to mind is when my dad got a huge fishing net and managed to string it up among the trees in our backyard so that you could climb up on one end and it went up to about 6 or 7 feet on the other. The whole neighborhood played at our house that summer– I sure wish I had a picture!

    February 4th, 2008 at 8:25 am

  7. Deana says:

    I posted on my blog a response. Thanks for the thought provoking post!

    February 4th, 2008 at 8:42 am

  8. susan says:

    my parents also took us camping multiple times every summer! and lavabeds is one of my all time favorites! you’re not my brother, are you?

    aside from the camping, my dad is also a total thrift shop junkie and would always come home with “fun toys” for us, much to my mother’s chagrin. his thrift shop finds included things like lawn darts and air rifles and real bow and arrow sets. ah, those were the days…

    February 4th, 2008 at 9:35 am

  9. Sara says:

    My dad had salvaged an old barge rope from the Mississippi river barges and hung it in some giant trees in our backyard to make a rope swing. He probably had to climb 30 feet or so to hang it up. The rope was soft from being worn down in the water, and we could pull it up to a platform he built in another tree and jump from it onto the swing, Tarzan-style. It was awesome.

    February 4th, 2008 at 11:21 am

  10. Lydia says:

    I tend to worry a lot, even as a kid. When I started middle school I was freaked out that I would have to (a.) keep up with a locker and combination to that locker (b.) have to change classes within a set amount of time and (c.) have to carry all my crap (gym clothes,viola,books). My dad knew this was stressing me so he took me to the new school after hours where the custodial staff let us in. He timed me as I practiced walking from class to class and going to my locker.

    February 4th, 2008 at 7:27 pm

  11. Nancy says:

    Posted on my blog:

    February 5th, 2008 at 11:21 am

  12. CallMeKelly says:

    My parents let us dig up the back yard. We were allowed to use the spade and shovel in one section of the backyard to dig around and we went all out, eventually creating a huge pit with trenches. It was awesome. My imagination is more limited now so I don’t even remember all the creative play we had, just vague memories of being archaeologists, miners, cavemen, martians tunneling under the human colonies… it was a great summer. All our friends were jealous that we were allowed to “destroy” part of our yard like that. Now I realize that my parents not only gave us great memories, but the next year they had a superbly cultivated spot to place our vegetable garden. Smart cookies, my parents.

    February 6th, 2008 at 1:40 am