“Did you know there is a little fun in every step you take,” my oldest daughter commented to me from her car seat en route to school.
“That’s right, my girl, whistle while you work” … I’m in.
This attitude of “fun in every step you take,” is what I’m aiming to build in my girls. I want them to know how to find joy in everyday living.
I want them to know how to bump into fun because as Walt Disney said, “when you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.”
I want them to seize moments and freeze the frame, even when life is pushing them forward or down.
I do get that not every step on the journey is fun. When my girls are whining and fighting, it rivals nails on a chalkboard and I want to jump out of the car. That’s the antithesis of fun.
Yet there are times, I must admit, when it’s me that’s no fun. These are the times busyness takes over my brain: “I need to do this and this. And this, and this. All in this amount of time. Ahhhhh!!”
This is when my brain switches into the mindset of a hamster running – between schools, stores, lessons, sports, and doctors – and my slow-down gear gets stuck on high speed.
I get overwhelmed. I find myself moving away from in-the-moment-living and instead focusing on what needs to happen next. And next.
My thinking becomes anti-fun and this is when my brain is in need of a reboot to what matters. (This is when I dig out my Post-Its. It works!).
I work at slowing down. It’s a challenge for me. It’s also why I am intentional about fun. I plan so I can get out of my own way.
I also plan so that the special fun is not put off for someday. That day is now.
I am all for opening the front door, checking the weather against the kids’ moods and then making a game-time decision.
Yet, in the words of Clark Griswold, “It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. I’m gonna have fun and you’re gonna have fun. We’re all gonna have so much f#%@ing fun we’ll need plastic surgery to remove our godamn smiles.”
This is how we do it at our house.
- Keep it simple. This is not an added chore. You are planning fun. I try not to get bogged down in the details as most plans require just a little forethought – nothing elaborate. Seriously, a stressed out parent is a spoil on family fun.
- Find family events. In Chicago, I use the following resources: Time Out Chicago Kids and Chicago Parent. Every month or so, I comb through these magazines for ideas for weekend plans. Two of our recent outings: Seeing Mo William’s Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical at the Emerald City Theater and playing in the Wonderful Wizard of Oz exhibit at the Kohl’s Children’s Museum.
- Make a list. I compile the clippings on a word document. Then I discuss the activities with my husband to decide which activities are for one, for some. For all or perhaps for none at all. We have to be realistic. Some ideas once typed up and visualized with my family’s unique characteristics just do not jibe.
- Get everyone’s input. I check in with my daughters to let them have a voice. Open communication, right? My oldest’s winter goal was to check out two new sledding spots. And follow with hot chocolate, of course. So I googled hot chocolate and discovered Bittersweet, a cafe where hot chocolate is served in fancy cups and on individual trays.
- Schedule. Post your family activities on the family chalkboard calendar. Do you have that? Do you share an electronic calendar with your husband? I’m so jealous. I am a technological cave lady, so I tape my trusty word document inside a kitchen cupboard. When Thursday rolls around, I open the door and draft ideas for the weekend, which I send via email to my husband.
- Plan and then be. On a recent day off of school, I took my oldest to American Girl for a mommy-daughter lunch. The highlight was asking and answering the conversation starters at the table. I channeled my inner yogi, instead of allowing my mind to jump to the next hour or task. We giggled a lot, connecting over questions like, “would you rather see a movie or a magic show?” or “if you could be a superhero, what special power would you choose?” It does not matter how well you plan if you miss the small, “this is why we do it,” moments.
- Lastly, be flexible. A lot of times family activities get derailed. Your two-year-old is melting down because her sleeve is touching her thumb or it is frigid when the forecast called for sunny and hot. (Like the Spring we are having in Chicago. Ugh. I so want to fly a kite).
The list prioritizes family fun, so we are not just shuttling between Target and swimming lessons. Although, I do think that even chores can be fun. (Check out how we do it here).
Fun enhances togetherness, making the to-do lists easier to manage.
A couple considerations: A lot of times, fun is simply about carving time for downtime. I crave old-fashioned hanging out at home, en famille. For us, one planned activity a weekend is ample. We love to go, but we also crave time snuggling in bed reading a chapter book, having impromptu techno dance parties, and demolishing hand-crafted cardboard forts (à la Angry Birds). Or a family favorite – Friday Night Movie Night. It’s almost sacred. It’s one of my favorite formulas: Togetherness + Popcorn + a couple Lagunitas for me and my hubs = All good things.
Play together. It’s a simple idea, yet it can yield fantastic results. The bonding between chips and putts, is a fond memory my mother-in-law has of golfing with her sons. She cherished the time on the fairways, hearing snippets of their rich internal lives.
It is my hope that by sharing fun experiences now, I’m building a safety net for communication down the road, when the going gets tough(er) – when one of my girls is weeping over a broken heart.
How to you make fun happen in your family?