A Parent Just Trying to Bring the Fun Back
When we first had a baby – seven years and three more children ago – I don’t think I really understood the baby was going to become a real person. Separate from me and complete with a personality and agenda and unique way of living life. When I look at our oldest boys, playing sports and making plans with friends and cracking (pretty good) jokes, it makes me realize my spirited toddler and squishy baby are soon to be two more ‘real people,’ too. And we are quickly moving into a phase that sometimes feels less like raising littles and a little more like having a houseful of roommates (just ones I didn’t necessarily choose and that I occasionally need to wipe the bums for).
The magic of babies has cleared to reveal some of the drudgeries of parent life. Emotions and behaviour management and discipline and ‘family meetings’ to talk through the big and small issues of a household. Grocery shopping that doesn’t seem to end (but somehow you still run out of yogurt). Rushing to activities and play dates and extra-curricular followed by guilt over possibly having too many or too few activities and play dates and extra-curricular. Quick phone calls to your partner to work out logistical kinks. Missed school forms and temper tantrums and routine-less summers that can actually make you excited for September.
Parenting is hard. Dear Mom: sorry, I didn’t know how hard it is. Nothing to be done now but be extra nice to you and wait years for my own kids to tell me they understand by the time it no longer matters.
Whether you have older ‘real people’ kids or young ones that need intensive care around the clock or are like us and have a bit of both, here is some genuine parent-to-parent wisdom I am working on: find a way to bring the fun back.
We just went on a vacation. With another family who also has four kids. So obviously vacation, yay! But also vacation with eight kids, oh no! It’s very tiring and we lack the routine and support we depend on from school and Kids & Company. But this holiday I made a small adjustment mentally: I assumed it was going to be hard but I also made a promise to try and get lost in some moments and be goofy and to let go of an agenda as much as possible. I wanted to tap into my inner fun for my husband, my co-vacationers, my children.
There were obstacles that any parent (or traveller) will cringe at: red-eye flights, re-routed travel and last-minute layovers, wrong turns, a broken boat engine, raccoon food massacres, a snake falling on our daughter, sunburns, so-many-huge-insects and so on. But all of it could be resolved with a bit of patience, time, understanding, clean-up and extra work. More notably we also had spontaneous dance parties, beach visits that stretched to sundown, surprise encounters with cool animals, first solo swims, new games invented, baby belly laughs, slow walks to everywhere, hours of wave jumping and just general FUN.
As we settle back into the real world after our adventures, I am trying desperately to hold on to the energy and openness that can bring the fun back into our day-to-day lives. Things I am working at:
- Letting go of some battles – as my children are growing older, I’m giving them more accountability to make decisions. Even when knowing their decisions might mean wasting their own money (7 year old), getting a bit cold (5 year old) or having messy clothes/hair/face (2 year old). When it doesn’t harm them or our family values, giving them freedom takes stress off us, teaches them important lessons and creates trust.
- Replenishing my energy – this is so hard. I am really trying to eat well, get exercise, stretch my mind and get adequate sleep. These are things I sometimes sacrifice with the best intentions of doing more for my family, but the result is coming to the table without any energy or inspiration.
- Being goofy – I have a good friend who has said before: Having fun is so much fun! And I couldn’t agree more; I enjoy silliness and pranks and jokes as much as the next four-year-old. But something about being an adult and parent makes you lose that edge. I am being intentional about letting loose, cracking jokes and giving in to ice cream more often. (In my experience only good things come from ice cream, so I’m not sure what it is about birthing children that made me so against it.)
Fingers crossed I manage to continue injecting fun into my own life and my family’s over the years as we age and evolve. Let us know in the comments if you have any ideas or experiences in rediscovering fun as a parent!
Melissa lives in Calgary and is the Director of Brand Strategy for Kids & Company. Her vision of what she would be like as a mom was shattered years ago when she discovered nothing ever goes as planned for parents, but laughter and community sees you through. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.