“Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think!” says an old song from the 50s. Our children grow up too quickly. When they’re small we sit on the floor, play patty cake, and sing baby songs. As they get older, we help with homework, drive them to activities, and watch school plays. We also tend to get serious and forget to have fun. But play is healthy for children and adults. When we have fun with our children, we create joyful, friendly connections and happy memories. It also decreases stress and the need for discipline.
“The more fun we have with our kids, the less they will misbehave,” says Fred. G. Grosman in his book, Spoiled Rotten,Today’s Children and How To Change Them. Grosman calls having fun “a disciplinary style that works.”
A police officer told me that he and his wife had signed up for a parenting class “because, even though I am a good disciplinarian, our 12-year-old daughter was getting too rebellious and taking her younger brother along with her.” The parents first weeks’ homework was to do something fun for 20 minutes everyday (not watching TV) with each child. He thought it was weird, but did it faithfully for a week. They played games, went for walks, had a soda, made pizza, even did chores together. “I couldn't imagine what it would do, but when we went back to class, I had to admit I felt like a good parent and there was a major improvement in the kids’ attitudes.”
Fun with Chores
Fun can happen in the midst of work. The best conversations with my mother took place while we were cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. In her article, “Memories That Matter,” Diane Chambers, author ofSolo Parenting: Raising Strong Happy Families, says, “Right at this very moment you are creating memories for your kids, whether good or bad. I am amazed when my 17-year-old daughter brings up memories that I didn’t even realize mattered until now. She’ll say, ‘Remember when we used to go to the dollar car wash and have to do it real fast because we only had two minutes and you only had one dollar?’ Then she smiles and says, ‘That was fun, huh?’ Your kids’ good memories will be of the times when you were smiling and laughing with them.”
Jim owns a laundromat. Once a month his two daughters, Liz and Jessica, ages 9 and 11, spend a Saturday morning in his office writing checks to pay bills. He signs and mails them. His wife thinks he should be ashamed of the childish handwriting but he grins, “They’re glad to get their money, and the girls and I have fun doing it.”
Fun with Hobbies
Learning a new skill together builds camaraderie and confidence. When their two boys started school Kathy said to her accountant husband, Howard, “You need to get some kind of hobby you can do with the boys.” Howard and the boys loved cars and decided to restore an old Volkswagen. They spent a lot of happy hours pouring over manuals and rummaging through junk yards together.
My colleague Marilyn had her best birthday ever when her son taught her how to rollerblade. Join your children in an activity they want to try.
What if you and your child took the dog to obedience class, made a vegetable garden, learned to paint with watercolors, prepared a French dinner, or tried a windsurfing lesson? It might be fun. All types of classes are offered throughout the Metro—MetroFamily Magazine’s print and online calendars offer some great ideas.
Exercise is more fun with a buddy. A regular walk feels good and provides an opportunity for a relaxed conversation about the day. At my gym, a mother and her 13- year-old son lift weights together a couple of afternoons a week. They always seem to be laughing and chatting.
Fun with Volunteering
Helping others is satisfying and fun. Linda and her daughter, Crystal, provide foster care for sheltered kittens that are too young to adopt. Wendy and her daughter, Meg, love garage sales. They make a project out of buying inexpensive children’s coats and donating them to a fall coat drive. Dennis and his daughter, Heather, work in the garden at their church once a month.
Adults and children are happier and healthier with fun in their lives. So enjoy yourself—it’s later than you think.
As Director of a teen/ parent program, Eleanor Wolf has taught and worked with teenagers, their babies, and their parents for over fifteen years. She has raised two children of her own and is a freelance writer and a professional speaker.