Help in Unlikely Places: The Unpack

  by Erik Wolgemuth

Though not a frequent occurrence, a handful of times a year, I’m presented with a chore that ranks way low on my scale of chore preferences: the post-trip unpack. My engagement and interest from packing to unpacking falls off precipitously. By the time I’m loading up that suitcase to head home, what was once marked by careful folding and inter-suitcase placement has become a mixture of roll and cram and stuff. And when I’ve arrived back at home, there is no excitement to deal with what was rolled and crammed and stuffed.

I recently, however, stumbled into some dadcraft following a return that also coincided with my wife’s birthday. It had been a full week of family travels and—as a result—my goals were twofold: persevere through the unpacking shortly after arriving home without bothering my wife and allow for her to have a parenting break from the kids. Tricky … until the kids decided they’d had enough of simply watching dad grumble and mutter about unpacking and decided to take a more involved approach to things.

As I’ve observed innumerable times and should have put to better use a long time ago, kids are quite good at the unloading of things. A basket of toys, the bucket of balls, a box of cereal left on the counter…all are easily emptied by a young, intrigued child. And, as my kids helped me realize, a full suitcase can be added to the list.

The throwing of clothes out of the suitcase into laundry and back into drawers (note: if still clean) only added to our fun and actually has me looking forward to my next chance to enjoy a dadcraft style unpack. I do, however, recognize that the next unpack may not elicit the same excitement and enthusiasm, so we may explore unpacking-themed games like: dirty / not dirty and “What I did when I wore this shirt.” Regardless, the experience was a reminder to me that even the mundane can present a moment to enjoy time with my kids.


Returning home from a trip (business or otherwise) usually means a return to some mundane fathering activities … like bathtime. Don’t miss the fun and joy that’s possible even in such typical, seemingly unexciting tasks.

And to up the excitement level regarding your return home, it’s tough to beat a cupcake celebration.

Photo by Laura Birkey; used by permission.