I was playing Four Square with my kids one summer afternoon when a friend texted me. I told her I was being a "reluctant fun mom" by playing in the driveway. She quipped that this blog should have been named Reluctant Fun Mom. I think she was right.
I get a bad rap as the un-fun parent. I don't like to ski or swim in the ocean, which my husband loves to do with the kids. I'm afraid of heights, which limits my participation in their adventures. I am neither good at nor particularly interested in throwing balls or having them thrown at me. I believe that creative play is best done with other children. OK, maybe I deserve some of the grief I get.
I have been trying to loosen up a bit. While I may not play the lead in my daughter's latest play or have robot battles with my son, I've tried to chill out a bit. I've tried to control things less. I've tried to remember what I was like before I had kids.
Last week helped. The kids were visiting their grandparents for the week. I didn't grocery shop or cook. I didn't pack lunch boxes or backpacks. I didn't manage anyone.
I was a lot more fun. I liked that me. My husband definitely liked that me.
I suppose I have a ways to go yet. The kids returned home yesterday afternoon, and my in-laws left this morning. The kids were at camp from 8:30 to 4:15 today. By the time they came home today, I already was the Enemy of Fun.
Before I explain, allow me to defend myself. Today, I spent two hours driving the kids to and from camp. I shopped for new pool toys and had all of them inflated and ready-to-use. I cleaned the pool, lit the faulty pilot light on the heater, and tidied up from our previous gatherings so the kids could swim when they arrived home. I also fully prepped dinner during camp, so I could spend more time with the kids.
I became the Enemy of Fun before we ever arrived home, because I wouldn't invite other kids over at 5:00 between camp and dinner. Once no other kids were coming, no one wanted to swim. Even when I announced the new pool toys.
I understood they were tired from camp, so I let them watch TV and play computer games for thirty minutes, respectively. But that wasn't fun enough. When I denied a second show, all hell broke loose. When I insisted that the grimy kids covered in bug spray and sunscreen needed to shower, things got even worse. I tried to remember Fun Mom and barely kept my frustration under control.
What really made me the Enemy of Fun was beyond my control. I feel that this happens a lot lately. My kid gets invited to a party that will end well past his bedtime, and I'm a horrible mom if I want him to come home early so he's not a bear the next day. Everybody else is having popsicles and cookies and ice cream, and I'm only allowing two, so I stink.
The new camp put me in today's pickle. Each week, some of the campers are invited to a special something on Wednesday. Wouldn't you know it? My seven-year-old's entire group was invited on their very first day. It was sold as great fun and not-to-be-missed. I would want to go, and she desperately wants to go. I want her to be able to participate. But like so many other things, her fun will only make my life suck a little more.
Instead of being dismissed at 4:00, I can permit her (and pay extra for her) to stay until 8:00. There will be campfires, dinner, skits, and other fun stuff. Sounds great, and I don't mind the money. But I still have to pick up her brother at regular dismissal, which means a third one-hour round trip with no carpool options. Her usual bedtime is 8:00, and there's no way she'll get to bed before 9:00. She was a difficult, whiny mess today, and I'm sure an extra four hours at camp are not going to improve her demeanor at home.
So what to do? Make her miss out, or cave to the pressure and make my life more difficult? I'm pretty sure I'll do what I always do--hem and haw about it, grudgingly let her go, then rant how right I was when it's all over and she's too tired for life.
And why? Because I don't want her to miss out on an experience solely because it inconveniences me. It's my job, so I'll make it happen.
And I'll still be the Enemy of Fun, even if I do.
There's only so much I can do. And that frustrates me.