I pull Addison, my 3-year-old daughter, snugly to my side as our doughnut-shaped raft enters the
winding tube slide. Addison’s two older sisters shriek with delight at the first drop. This is going
to be fun!
Then the raft picks up speed, and I clutch Addison tighter, doing my best to keep us both inside. As
we round the next bend, our raft shoots halfway up the side, stopping just short of flipping over.
There is an abrupt drop, more screams, and we slide even faster. After navigating several more
turns, we burst through the waterfall at the end.
That was a lot rougher than I expected. I hope little Addison is OK. Addison sputters, pushing her
sopping hair away from her face, and whispers, “Daddy, let’s do it again!”
After a second trip down the massive slide, we reunite with my wife, Jenny, who has been enjoying
time with our youngest daughter. The six of us float down the lazy river and duck under waves in the
wave pool before returning to our room. That evening, we meet up with other hotel guests for a
family dance party.
Jenny and I loved watching our children have so much fun, and we knew this adventure would be long
remembered. In The Power of Moments, brothers Chip and Dan Heath write, “Defining moments shape our
lives, but we don’t have to wait for them to happen. We can be the authors of them.” Our blended
family knows this is true because our carefully crafted adventures are drawing us closer than ever
Stepparents typically miss their stepchild’s first words, initial steps and early achievements.
These are “peak moments.” When divorce and remarriage are involved, biological parents may
inadvertently rack up peak-moment debt by being physically present but mentally checked out. Our
family has discovered that deliberately planning a few peak moments each year allows us to address
this discrepancy because laughter, joy and shared experiences possess uncanny abilities to
Here are three ways you can intentionally strengthen family bonds by creating peak moments:
Team up with your spouse
“Honey, this sounds like a lot of fun, but we can’t afford it,” I said. When it comes to finances, I
am a saver and Jenny is a spender. But Jenny entered the conversation prepared. “Honey, we can’t
afford not to take this trip,” she said. “Now, let me show you how we can fit this into our
budget….” Working together, you can make the adventure happen.
Enlist family support
Jenny sighed. “It’s wonderful that so many people care about our kids, but we simply don’t have
space for all of these gifts.” In our home, holiday presents have become a mixed blessing.
Biological family, stepgrandparents, and bonus aunts, uncles and cousins all want to give gifts to
Jenny’s creative solution is to send a group email requesting contributions toward a family activity
in lieu of physical gifts. Although this felt presumptuous at first, Jenny’s carefully crafted
messages are well received. This approach allows us to build more memories while spending less time
wondering, What do we do with all of this stuff?
Memorialize the adventure
Our house grew abnormally silent, and I became concerned. Typically this means our younger girls are
into mischief, but this time I found all four girls sitting on the couch, engrossed in family photo
albums. Our family memorializes our adventures by sharing favorite stories throughout the year,
taking lots of pictures and creating photo books that we intentionally leave within our children’s
reach. We have found that frequently returning to these happy memories strengthens our family’s
Jed Jurchenko is the co-author of 131 Conversations for Stepfamily Success.