Last month for our eleventh anniversary, my husband and I went out to a comedy club. It was a great night, and as I sat with a drink among hip club-goers, laughing uproariously with my husband, a wistful feeling washed over me. “Remember how I used to be fun?” I asked my husband. Because it’s true, I have been a fun girl in my day. I’m pretty loud and extroverted and I have a decent sense of humor; those traits can contribute to a fun time if the circumstances and group of people are right. I can be a kick-my-heels-back kind of girl.
Not quite so much anymore though; much less kicking-back-heels now than in bygone eras. I was thinking: what happened to that girl anyway? “You’re still fun,” my husband replied, “but you go into business-mode more now than you used to.” I appreciated the honesty… kind of. He’s right though. It’s all too easy for life with three needy preschoolers, a household to run, and some work to squeeze in to to turn into a ‘getter-done’ state of affairs. I don’t mean for it to become bullet-point-ish… It just happens Dinner; check. Clean-up; check. Baths (every second or third night); check. Bedtime routine; check. Mandatory tasks call, and it’s hard for the mom at the helm to get into ‘fun’ mode in the midst of all that. At least for this mom. Who has the time (or energy)?
Compounding the issue is the amount of firmness that is required in my household for us to maintain harmony (or at least equilibrium). My four- and two-year olds have strong personalities, and each is a “give ’em an inch, they take a mile” kind of kid. I do play with and enjoy them – we snuggle and read and laugh. We sing songs and color and dance. We picnic; we visit friends; we go to the playground. But in our house, when I don’t maintain a focused and no-nonsense overall demeanor with them, things start to go downhill pretty quickly. Whining, defiance, and bickering can sneak in through the back door and set up shop in half a day when I’m not paying attention… Or when I let the firmness of my tone slide. I aim for pleasant firmness, but sometimes it’s just plain old firmness. On a bad day, it’s annoyed firmness (sin on my part).
Here’s the thing: maintaining a sufficiently firm demeanor can really cut into the funness quotient. It takes pointed effort to be firm AND fun. I’m not too good at it yet. I more often err more on the side of firm than fun. Now that I think about it, I’d like to rework that. If I intentionally relax and think about enjoying the day with my kids, it’s really quite doable. Seems odd, doesn’t it, to be diligent about having fun? Sounds like an oxymoron – even though it isn’t one.
Last week Simple Mom had a post called Four Fun Ways to Practice Playful Parenting that piqued my interest. The notion of playful parenting is one I could stand to ponder a bit more and experiment with… and one I will. I’d love the business-mode to recede a bit and a more relaxed, fun mom to come to the fore. After all, fun and joy – the kind that marks the Christ-following life – are close cousins. My motto can become that of King Solomon in the Ecclesiastes: “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.” (Ecc. 8:15)
Wish me luck.