The opening chapters of The Lord of the Rings focus on the preparations for and the celebration of Bilbo Baggins’s birthday. Those of us who read it (or watched Peter Jackson’s excellent movies) have a sense that Bilbo intends this to be his last night in the Shire. As he makes his farewell speech, Bilbo looks to his community and says, “Alas, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits.” This moment was equally important for Bilbo’s nephew, Frodo, whose adventure was only just about to begin.Since the time at home with our kids is short, we have to make the most of it.
When I see my teenage daughter and a son who is quickly approaching adolescence, I feel like I’m living an echo of Bilbo’s birthday party. I firmly believe that 18 years is far too short a time to share with such excellent and admirable kids. Since the time at home with our kids is short, we have to make the most of it. Soon, they’ll be out on their own, with a new adventure just about to begin. At the same time, there are many experiences I hope my daughter can have before she moves on to adult life. With that in mind, here are 10 ideas for a teenage bucket list.
1. Take a risk.
Put yourself out there and try out for a team, perform on a stage, or make a run for class president. See what you can achieve—or find out that failure isn’t the end of the world.
2. Attend a fair.
In my part of the world, the Calgary Stampede and Edmonton’s K-Days festival offer unique experiences each summer. Ride the rides, play the carnival games, and eat the food. These are memories worth having.
3. Face a fear.
Pick one of the things you are most afraid of and have a deliberate encounter with it. For example, if you’re scared of snakes, go to a pet store and hold one to conquer that fear.
4. Make an intergenerational friend.
Spend regular, quality time with an older relative, neighbor, or community member. Use the time to get to know their stories and teach them some twenty-first-century skills like text messaging or scanning their family photos.
5. Become a tourist.
We are often oblivious to the beauty of what’s near us. Find out what tourists like to do when they visit your area and experience it for yourself. Whether it’s climbing a mountain, going on a whale-watching cruise, or attending a rodeo, make sure you soak in all your neck of the woods has to offer.
6. Take an international mission trip.
Take the opportunity to go and serve on an international mission trip. If you can’t afford to pay for it yourself, then plan ahead and save up or host a fundraiser to cover the cost. Interacting with people in need in a new country will give a face and a name to the poor—in addition to helping you become more aware of your own blessings.
7. Learn how to do something not everyone can do.
Seek out an uncommon skill. Try it and master it. It could be something like eating with chopsticks, ice carving, or powerlifting. Whatever it is, get really good at it and you’ll find that you can impress friends and roommates alike with your unexpected ability.
8. Watch a sunrise.
Whether you were going to be up late anyway or you need to set an early alarm, take the chance to see just how beautiful creation really is with your own eyes by finding a good spot and watching the sunrise.
9. Have an epic water fight.
Everyone deserves to have the experience of a no-holds-barred water fight at least once in his or her life. Get together with your family (or your friends) and, with all kindness, don’t stop ’til you’re all soaking wet.
10. Eat in a famous restaurant.
Is there a particularly famous restaurant in your area? Perhaps it’s famous because it’s been featured on TV or in a movie or because local celebrities like to dine there. Make a reservation, take your dad, and take some fun photos to capture the memory. If it’s a fancy restaurant, your dad can be an example of what a fancy date should look like.
Sound off: What other experiences should a teenager have before growing up and moving out?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one thing you have never done that you would like to do this year?”